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VHSL releases Return to Participation guidelines

VHSL releases Return to Participation guidelines


Stock futures for David sunflower seeds and Big League Chew are sure to plummet. Seven-footers all across the Commonwealth are no doubt reassessing their priorities. And soccer’s trademark defensive wall has crumbled with all the subtlety of the Iron Curtain.

When high school sports return to Virginia’s public schools this winter and spring, they will look unlike anything we’ve seen in the past.

On Friday, the Virginia High School League unveiled its 2020–21 Guides for Return to Participation. The 39-page document details various COVID-19 modifications that will be in place as VHSL schools prepare for Championship +1 seasons beginning on Dec. 7.

Colonial Forge athletic director Jeff Berry admitted he was a little nervous when he first scanned the document, concerned that the changes would be too far-reaching.

“I didn’t really see that, which was comforting, to be honest with you,” Berry said. “It gives you tremendous guidelines, but at the same time it doesn’t hold your feet to the fire by rules and regulations … It seems like everything can be realistically followed so we can pull this off.”

Among the highlights is the elimination of jump balls in basketball; the visiting team will be awarded possession to start the game. In baseball, sunflower seeds, gum and spitting of all kinds are forbidden, and pitchers are barred from wearing white or gray face coverings. Soccer players must maintain three feet of distance during indirect and direct kicks, effectively breaking up any human barriers.

But perhaps the most impactful gameplay change affects boys lacrosse. For this spring, only stick checking is allowed and any body checks will be penalized by a change in possession. Faceoffs (and draws in girls’ lacrosse) won’t be part of the game this spring, negating the “FOGO” position entirely.

“The game is going to be a little slower, a little more tactical than in the past,” Mountain View boys lacrosse coach George Pugh said. “We have kids that work hard at [faceoffs] every day so it’s going to be sad for them. But we’re going to have to adapt. Every team is going to have to adapt.”

The document also features criteria for mask wearing during VHSL events. While athletes aren’t required to wear a mask while practicing or playing, “fans, working event staff, non-competing participants and coaches must wear face coverings at all times,” it states. Cheerleaders performing on the sidelines at games must be masked as well.

The timing of the VHSL document coincides with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s signing of fourth-amended Executive Order 67. The order, signed by Northam Thursday, loosened restrictions on recreational sports.

Berry noted that local school districts could still adopt more restrictive guidelines than those offered by the VHSL. He plans to hold Zoom meetings with Colonial Forge coaches in the coming days and weeks to ensure compliance.

“It’s not what we’re used to, but we’re going to be on the field doing what we love to do,” Berry said. “Whatever we have to do to get out there, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045


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