CHARLOTTE — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced Wednesday its revised schedule for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Association’s Board of Directors met Tuesday night and voted on an amended sports calendar. Que Tucker, the commissioner of the NCHSAA, revealed the calendar which showed delayed and shortened seasons for fall sports.
Football practice will begin on Feb. 8. Other sports schedules were altered, including basketball, soccer and golf. Tucker called the Association’s decisions concerning the revised schedule as “calculated.”
Tucker said the proposed start dates remain dependent on COVID-19 conditions improving in North Carolina.
- First practice: Feb. 8
- First game: Feb. 26
- Final regular-season game: April 9
- First practice: Dec. 7
- First game: Jan. 4
- Final regular-season game: Feb. 19
- The season will be limited to 14 games
Tucker acknowledged that the calendar doesn’t have dates for playoffs but they do have a plan for the postseason. Details on that will be announced later. She also said access to locker rooms and weight rooms will be governed by each district.
Tucker presented the calendar after spending time explaining the thought process that went into creating it.
”We know that education-based athletics has great benefits for young people across our state,” Tucker said.
She went on to describe the importance of participating in sports while also keeping students and coaches safe. The first sports that will be allowed to practice are cross-country and volleyball. Those sports can begin practice Nov. 4.
Their first competitions will happen Nov. 16.
“A few weeks ago I said we will play again. It is with that same spirit that we present this calendar,” Tucker said.
Will Shipley is one of the top football players in the nation and a Channel 9′s “Big 22 Players to Watch.” He said he is upset that football couldn’t be played in the fall.
“I’m obviously very disappointed with the decision,” Shipley said.
Shipley is concerned that an abbreviated seven-game season with possibly no playoffs won’t give his teammates the spotlight they deserve.
“I feel bad for the kids, my teammates, who I know deserve an opportunity to go and play college football,” Shipley said. “They aren’t going to be able to get the exposure they need.”
Myers Park football coach Scott Chadwick said he understands the frustration.
“I don’t think anything is certain, that’s for sure,” Chadwick said. “But I think the one thing we have for the first time in a long time is hope.”
Dr. Josh Bloom of the NCHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee said research has shown that it is critically important for sports to continue.
”While there are risks...it has also become very clear that there are significant negative consequences for not providing (sports),” Bloom said.
He said research has shown that student-athletes deprived of sports could experience depression and anxiety.
”We want our young people to be able to play, but for sure we want them to play in a way that is safe and secure,” Tucker said.
With that in mind, Tucker said there are many more details to still work out.
”There is still much work to be done in regard to playoff formats, COVID-19 related rules modifications for numerous sports, securing potential playoff facilities and providing the safest possible regular-season opportunities for student-athletes,” Tucker said. “If we want high school sports to return to normal, whatever that looks like, we all have to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The roller coaster of emotions that athletic directors across the area said they’ve been feeling the last couple of months has reached a point of relief. There are still details that need to be ironed out but as one coach told Channel 9, some kind of plan is better than no plan.
Xavier Turner is a rising senior at Vance High School. His baseball season last year was canceled due to the pandemic, and he has concerns heading into this year as well.
“With the playoff dates not being announced yet, that could push, you know, take some time from my baseball season,” he said.
Though this new plan may create some overlap between baseball and football, it provides a chance to play his senior season.
“Even though this date could change, or they could alter it, I’m glad that there is a set date,” Turner told Channel 9.
Cox Mill athletic director Philip Davanzo provided a statement to Channel 9, lauding the plan.
“We get an opportunity to compete. We get to create memories for these young people. Its everyone’s responsibility to seize the opportunity, come together and put on something spectacular,” Davanzo said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston told the NCHSAA last week his thinking is that students should not play while schools are under Plan C remote learning.
CMS said it will make a final decision after it gets guidance from the state.
Last week, the NCHSAA announced it would delay the start of fall sports after Gov. Roy Cooper extended Phase 2 of his “safer at home” reopening order. At the time, Tucker said the group hoped to make an announcement on the sports calendar by Aug. 17.
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