In a special called meeting, the TSSAA Legislative Council voted on whether to waive the two-week time frame — for this year only — during which student-athletes and coaches are not allowed to have contact. A majority was needed to pass the change, so a 6-6 vote left the dead period intact.
Originally the dead period was put in place so families could schedule vacation times in the summer without the threat, or pull, for student-athletes to be at practice. This year it will begin June 23 at midnight and conclude on July 6 at midnight.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, and after a push from parents and coaches across the state, the Legislative Council decided to hold a special meeting. TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress opened the meeting with comments and made several good points about the importance of keeping the dead period in place.
“Families have planned around what the TSSAA said for the last month or so, that we would keep the dead period,” Childress said. “Our student-athletes feel they have sacrificed a lot during this uncertain time. And if there is an opportunity for them to go on vacation and be with family members, especially family members they haven’t been able to see, I think we need to think seriously about whether we are creating an impression that we are putting sports ahead of families. We never want that to be what we stand for.”
Keith Turner, a legislative council member and Science Hill’s athletic director, voted for waiving the dead period.
“I was hopeful it would pass,” Turner said. “I like the dead period under normal circumstances. I think it’s a great thing for families to know those two weeks are there every year. But what I see now, at least on our end of the state, is these kids getting to see each other and continuing to work out is important.”
Council member Bo Griffin of Millington agreed with Turner.
“These kids need each other,” Griffin said. “Seeing that familiar face is helping a whole lot. We know these are unusual times.”
Council member Tom Densford of St. George’s said it was too close to the dead period to make an abrupt change, especially after families had already made plans. Art Crook of Station Camp said he had not spoken to anyone, coaches or parents, who wanted to drop the dead period.
Childress said he realizes the situation is tough on everybody.
“We’ve all been at home and are still at home,” he said. “The kids don’t like it. We don’t like it. But we still need to allow them to be kids and give consideration to the families.”
Turner said the state having so many different levels of dealing with the pandemic probably played into the split vote.
“I think it had a tremendous impact,” he said. “It shows how different things are across the state.”