Where do high school sports stand?
As the coronavirus pandemic rages through the state of Alabama, the question that remains on many minds – mine included – is, “Where do we stand with high school sports?”
I know, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said in a press conference two weeks ago, “We will have extracurricular activities.” That statement was more definitive than anything else that came from the press conference.
But like many other pronouncements from that press conference, it prompted 10 times more questions than answers.
State leaders have given very little guidance, support or confidence to local leaders as we race toward the start of school, woefully unprepared for what is to come.
Alabama is averaging about 1,000 new positive COVID-19 cases daily. The state department of health has recorded 1,007 COVID-19 deaths.
We have yet to send hundreds of students and adults into crowded classrooms and hallways intermingling with each other several times a day. Anyone who has remotely stepped into a school knows a large percentage of students will not practice good hygiene. Many parents will send their children to school sick – happens all the time – and many students will cough and sneeze without properly covering their mouths.
Not to mention, yes, a very small number will try to scare others by saying they are going to give them the COVID on purpose – believe me, it will happen.
So how can anyone be absolutely sure what is going to happen in a little over a month?
Football, volleyball and cross country are the main sports schools in Franklin County participate in each fall. The first football games are scheduled for Aug. 20, which is now the first day of school for Franklin County Schools. Russellville City Schools return a week earlier, Aug. 12.
The first official football practice date is July 27.
Major League Baseball and the NBA are trying to start back later this month. They are playing essentially in bubbles with highly sophisticated testing procedures and health protocols.
The NFL and college football are trying to start back as normally as possible. Many colleges and professional teams have already had to shut down their workouts because of outbreaks within their teams.
At the high school level, Tennessee and Mississippi are already looking at modified schedules and/or dramatic seasonal changes.
Whatever those states do, as well as Georgia and Florida, will affect Alabama.
Decision time looms for our state and our fall sports. The AHSAA Football and Fall Sports committees met July 7. The Alabama Football Coaches Association will meet July 8. The AHSAA Central Board will meet and make critical votes July 22.
The health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and everyone involved in a high school sporting events should be first and foremost in any decision making. We all want sports to return – myself included – but there should be very clear and unambiguous rules and guidelines from the state superintendent and the AHSAA.
These kinds of decisions shouldn’t be left to 135 local school systems and hundreds of schools throughout the state. They have enough problems to worry about right now.