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VHSL releases guidelines for return to sports

Kevin Mays • Jun 19, 2020 at 4:53 PM

High school teams in Southwest Virginia are hoping to return to limited conditioning next week, and on Friday the VHSL announced its recommended protocols for reopening sports after an extended shutdown because of the novel coronavirus.

“Working in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education, the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory has developed a list of recommended guidelines for school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities,” the league said in a release.

“These VHSL guidelines are recommended for use as school divisions develop their own specific requirements for the Phase II COVID Mitigation Health Plans for Public Schools,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “SMAC worked closely with VDH to ensure that these recommended guidelines will offer guidance to local school divisions’ and superintendents’ reopening plans. Our SMAC committee of leading health experts has put together an invaluable tool to assist our school divisions in developing those plans.”

Some Southwest Virginia schools announced earlier that they will begin conditioning Monday. Officials at others were meeting to put together final details for reopening their conditioning programs, and most were planning to begin Monday or Tuesday.

The guidelines for Phase II of reopening sports stress the importance of qualified athletic trainers for programs, proper procedures for cleaning facilities, pre-workout screenings of athletes and coaches. The VHSL also offered sport-specific protocols.

The guidelines state conditioning can be conducted outside or inside facilities that meet all safety standards. Whether inside or outside, the guidelines indicate 10 feet of distance must be maintained between individuals.

The number of individuals allowed is also limited. Guidelines for inside conditioning say the participants cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load of the venue or 50 people. Those for outside conditioning say participants cannot exceed the lesser of 30% of occupancy load or 50 people.

BEFORE STARTING

According to the guidelines, each athlete and coach should be asked daily health screening questions, and the individuals’ responses to the questions should be recorded and stored.

Any individual who reports coronavirus symptoms “should not be allowed to participate, should self-isolate, and contact their primary care provider or other health care provider or other health care professional.”

Return to participation protocols will be developed by local school divisions, according to the recommendations.

The VHSL also calls for the wearing of face masks by both athletes and coaches. However, the guidelines note that an executive order from Gov. Ralph Northam allows for an exemption to wearing a face mask when exercising or using exercise equipment.

All athletes are required to bring their own water bottles, which cannot be shared.

GUIDELINES PER SPORT

The VHSL also provided guidelines for each individual sport.

In football, contact is prohibited, as are occasions in which the football is shared.

“A player should not participate in drills with a football that will be handed off or passed to other teammates,” the guidelines state. “Contact with other players is not allowed and there should be no sharing of tackling dummies, donuts, sleds.”

In volleyball, individual drills are allowed and each player must use a separate ball. Drills in which more than one person touches or hits a shared volleyball are not allowed.

In cross country, runners must maintain 10 feet of distancing with no grouping, including at starts and finishes.

In golf, participants must maintain appropriate physical distancing of at least 10 feet.

THE FUTURE

Where things go from this point are still a mystery.

The VHSL has not indicated when Phase III for sports will begin or what possible guidelines for that phase may be.

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