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H.S. fall sports: One week in

A look at how the first week of practices have gone in the high school sports season.
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 8:28 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We are a week into the return of high school sports and the big picture message...so far, so good.

The fall sports season opened last Tuesday following the first day of school at high schools across the state. Over the last week, thousands of high school student athletes have been able to return to the fields, and according to Bob Johnson, the Associate Executive Director of the Vermont Principals' Association, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

He says people do not understand the amount of work that was put in by schools leading up to that first day to give players the best opportunity to participate and to do so as safely as possible.

There are challenges. Once given the go-ahead by state health officials that games can be played, the shortened fall season leaves minimal flexibility to adjust schedules or reschedule games, and, while there are protocols in place, no one really knows what the impact on the fall season will be if there are positive COVID tests. But for now, Johnson says the initial returns on the return of high school sports have been as good as could be hoped for.

“Everything went about as well as we could hope last week.”, says Johnson. “A lot of that is a result of the planning that went into this.

There’s still disappointment. There’s still disappointment about football, there is still disappointment about indoor volleyball, but the flip side of that is we’re going to be able to play and that was our ultimate goal.”

“Our goal from the very beginning was to be able to get students back out on the field and be able to offer them some sort of activity for this fall. They had to have that.

After what they went through in the spring and what they went through the very end of the winter season, they had to have that. The nicest part is we’re right on the edge of being able to do that, to be able to offer that to them.”

As for when games can begin, that’s a two part answer. The VPA requires teams to complete ten practices before they are eligible to play a game. Johnson says schools are on their way to achieving that mark.

More crucially, games cannot begin this fall until Vermont state health officials rule that schools can move from Step Two to Step Three of the State’s ‘Strong and Healthy Start’ plan. That could happen later this week, but there are no guarantees.

Schools that are part of the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference have said they plan to begin their league schedules the week of September 28th, but Johnson says, if the state moves to Step Three earlier, some schools may hold scrimmages next week or even play a game that they couldn’t reschedule for later in the season.

Schools that are part of the Southern Vermont League have said they are planning to begin playing next week, and Johnson says that plan is still in effect.

“The schools that I’ve talked to are ready to go.”, says Johnson. “They feel by this time next week, if we get the go ahead to go to Step Three, they’ll be ready to play games as of Monday.

Not every school, because some of them have not got their ten practices in, but the majority of schools in the south have said that they will be ready to go.”

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