GRAFTON—Although Grafton High School athletics took a week off from voluntary offseason conditioning, they, as well as many other high school athletes across the state, are working through Phase II of the WVSSAC approved model to return to offseason workouts.
Coaches were allowed to start working in small pods with their athletes on June 6th in Phase I, and Phase II allows for double the instruction time at up to two hours per day. Indoor workouts are now allowed as well, which affords the athletes an opportunity to return to the weight room. Due to multiple GHS student-athletes having contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, it was recommended to the administration and coaching staff to take a week off from conditioning before entering the next phase, which for the Bearcats, began on Monday. Phase III will then begin the three week “live” period and some programs have decided to just wait until then to begin their respective activities.
“I think it is working out well for the schools,” said WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan. “They are having some organization. They are getting kids back and they are able to work them in slowly and bring them on. I think there was as much talking going on with the kids face-to-face as physical workouts. That’s an important part of all this, the social and emotional part as well as the physical.”
“Official” practices for most fall sports programs is scheduled to begin on August 3rd, leaving football teams time to compete in two scrimmages if they wish and having almost a month of preseason camp. Dolan thinks that once the regular season begins, schedules could be hampered if positive COVID-19 cases arise around the state.
“Looking around, it would make sense that you would believe that there would be some spots that pop up to be hot spots during the year. However, once we get back into school, I think we found out in the spring that West Virginians have kind of stayed in their own neighborhood, so to speak. And we didn’t have any major breakouts.”
Dolan is hopeful that if Phases II and III are successful, a number of “what if” scenarios about schedules can be potentially eliminated.
“Option number one is that this gets managed in July and we can start on time. There are multiple scenarios of starting late and ending early, starting early and ending late. There’s different ones and you really can’t put any into place until you see more of these dominoes start to fall and you find out exactly how this is going to line up as we get closer to August.”
As teams enter into Phase III in July, one significant difference this year is that teams can only practice and compete against themselves. No 7-on-7’s or scrimmage basketball games can be held.
“We are trying to keep this somewhat contained until we get to August when I think it is going to be a lot easier to manage because people won’t be traveling for vacations,” Dolan explained.
Individual counties will soon make decisions on spectator attendance at athletic events as they continue to comply with social distancing requirements. The possible reduction in football ticket revenue, however, could significantly impact other sports at each school.
“If schools are unable to have fans in the stands for football, that is going to be very challenging for them financially to make it,” Dolan added. “Yes, you can play games without fans in the stands, but can you afford to do it and where are you going to make it up?”