The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced last week the schedule for high school sports in the state’s public schools for the 2020-21 school year. Although students at Alamance-Burlington Schools and Eastern Alamance High School returned for the fall semester earlier this week, students won’t be playing actual sports for a few months still.
The sports calendar begins on November 4, when Cross Country and Volleyball may begin their first practices. Final regular contests in these sports will conclude by January 8. Swimming and diving will begin practices starting on November 23, with the first meets allowed on December 7, and final regular season meets concluding by January 30.
Basketball teams may begin practice on December 7, with the first contest on or after January 4. The final regular season basketball contests are to be played by February 19. Men’s soccer and men’s and women’s lacrosse will start practice on January 11. Those sports will participate in their first contests on January 25, and conclude the regular season by March 12.
In this plan, football will hold its first practices on February 8, with the first contests to be played on or after February 26. The final regular season contest in football would have to be played by April 9.
Men’s and women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s soccer, and softball all start practice on March 1. First contests for these spring sports would be on or after March 15, with regular season play concluding by April 30. Baseball, women’s tennis, track and field, and wrestling would begin practice on April 12, holding first contests on or after April 26, and completing regular season play by June 11. The NCHSAA is making plans to host its annual Cheerleading Invitational on May 1, 2021.
“While indoor venues for an event this size may still be problematic at that time, a May 1 deadline allows the potential to hold the event outdoors if necessary,” said NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker.
Indoor track season was not included in this year’s NCHSAA schedule.
“As we discussed and deliberated the schedule, we wanted every student to have the opportunity to participate in their sport,” Tucker explained. “Because indoor track is similar to outdoor track and field, we felt that being able to host outdoor track and field still provides a participation opportunity for these students. With facility constraints, and the difficulty in conducting large meets indoors while still needing to socially distance, also factored into that decision.”
The dead period is the first five student days of the school year. Following those first five student days, the NCHSAA is moving into skill development.
“We will still be operating under the Phase 2 guidelines. They will remain in place. But there is an exception. The access to locker rooms and weight rooms will be governed by each LEA (local education agency),” said Tucker.
Commissioner Tucker praised the NCHSAA Board of Directors, as well as the member schools, for their planning and patience during this unprecedented period.
“If you remember, several weeks ago I said we will play again. It is with this same spirit that we present this calendar. I applaud our staff and the members of the Board of Directors for approving a 2020-21 sports calendar that we believe provides us the most realistic chance of providing interscholastic athletic opportunities for our students, while at the same time, balancing the challenges of our new academic setting,” Tucker said.
“Our decision-making process has been very deliberate. It’s been very careful. You might say it’s been calculated. Why? Because we know we must do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of all student-athletes, coaches, and administrators during this unprecedented time,” the Commissioner continued.
Tucker added that there is still much work to be done in regards to playoff formats, COVID-19 rules-related modifications for the sports, securing potential playoff facilities, and for providing the safest possible regular season opportunities for student-athletes.
“We are committed to our mission, which is to provide leadership and governance for interscholastic athletic programs across this state, which support and enrich the educational experience for student-athletes. We believe we must always try to maintain the standards of excellence for which the NCHSAA has become known,” the Commissioner continued. “We cannot change the realities of COVID-19, and the threat that it poses, not only for the NCHSAA membership, for our nation, and for our world. But we can change the way we think about everything we are experiencing. We can look at this situation with COVID-19 as a negative, by looking at it in terms of what we’re missing, what we’re losing out on, what we’re not going to be able to do. Or, we can look at our response to COVID-19 in a positive light, and examining the opportunities that we have been given. Have we learned anything about the importance of community? About the value of education?”
“I truly understand that the plans are being met with mixed emotions,” Tucker added. “Our staff and Board members have worked extremely hard to present a plan that we believe will work. We respect, as well as understand, this passion, because we share that same passion. It is a great reminder that if we want high school sports to normal - whatever that may look like - we all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Wear your mask. Wait six feet. Wash your hands.”