GEORGIA — As summer conditioning for high school athletes continues, sports has taken a back seat to discussions over how and when schools should reopen.
But the head of the state’s high school athletics governing body says if schools are open, sports should be a part of it.
Robin Hines, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said it is important for high school students to have sports when schools open their doors.
“I feel like, if we are in school, we need to have athletics and activities for our students,” Hines said. “It’s not good on the mental health of our students to be quarantined and not out with friends and not having the social aspect and the creative aspect of fine arts and the competitive aspects of athletics. We believe there are things taught in athletics best taught in athletics, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good husband, how to be a good wife, how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. All these values we hold so dear in our society, so of course we want that to continue.”
The GHSA recently loosened some of its restrictions to allow for intra-squad practices for football and volleyball, and softball teams can have pitchers throw to batters.
If the 2020-21 athletics season begins as scheduled, softball will be the first contested sport with games permitted as early as Aug. 6. The GHSA recently outlined “special considerations” for softball games.
Over 20 regulations are included to decrease potential exposure to COVID-19. The stipulations include requiring host schools to provide hand sanitizer and enforce social distancing in spectator areas. Concession stands will be closed. On the field, each team will provide its own game balls, and the pitcher will take the game ball with her to the dugout at the end of each half-inning. At least 6-feet of separation must be maintained among players and coaches in the dugout, which may be extended to a clearly marked out-of-play area. Players cannot leave the dugout to celebrate a home run. The plate umpire will also stand farther behind home plate to call pitches.
Under the GHSA’s schedule, softball, cross-country and volleyball can hold contests before the state’s emergency order expires on Aug. 11. The order limits all gatherings to 50 people or fewer unless social distancing can be maintained. However, GHSA competition is exempt from the order, Hines said, so fans will be able to attend contests.
Hines said he does not expect the GHSA to loosen any more restrictions over the next “week or two.”
With the start of the athletics year just a few weeks away, GHSA officials will continue weekly meetings with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, a volunteer group of healthcare professionals.
“We look at the data and all the information available to determine where we are and where we go from here,” Hines said. “We are really grateful for that group for giving us the time, they’ve been great volunteers for the GHSA.”
Barring any changes, cheerleading, softball, volleyball, football and cross-country can begin practices Aug. 1 with contests for each sport beginning from Aug. 6-21.