Gov. Henry McMaster gave the green light for recreation facilities and rec leagues around the Palmetto State to open up after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.
But high school athletes, coaches and fans must wait to find out if high schools around the Palmetto State can open gyms and weight rooms to allow student-athletes to begin preparations for the fall sports season for the 2020-21 school year.
“When it came down, the High School League said we couldn’t open gyms until at least June 1,” Bishop England High School athletic director Paul Runey said. “When the High School League made the announcement a few months ago, they said they would revisit it by June 1; they would make a decision and let us know. We haven’t heard anything. So, as far as I’m concerned, June is off the table, and we’re sticking with that until we hear differently. When will we hear something and what will it be? That’s anybody’s guess.”
June is an important month for student-athletes to prep for a fall season that begins in the dog days of August and ends with the Weekend of Champions, contested on crisp autumn days. Being fit is critical. Imagine practicing football with 60 pounds of equipment on when the comfort level reaches 105 degrees — with and without the proper conditioning.
The public high schools and a few private schools that are members of the South Carolina High School League must wait to hear from Commissioner Jerome Singleton, who heads the organization that oversees interscholastic events in the Palmetto State.
Singleton, a Charleston native, is following the directives set by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the organization that governs high school sports on a national level. The NFHS recently issued a report titled “Guidance for Opening up High School Athletics and Activities.”
Some of the NFHS’ directives in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
• It is recommended coaches and officials might need to wear masks. The first phase will require temperature checks before workouts, with no more than 10 students gathering at one time and that “pods” of the same 5-10 students workout together throughout the phase. There will be no locker room use, and 6-foot distances must be maintained.
• Temperature checks will continue during Phase 2, but up to 50 people can gather for outdoor workouts. Socially-distant locker room use is also approved in phases 2 and 3.
• In Phase 3, 50 or more people can gather indoors, but a 3-foot distance must be maintained when players are not in the game and are on the sidelines.
The NFHS also said if a team member tests positive, the entire team probably will need to be quarantined. Schools must also plan for periodic closures as individual flare-ups erupt.
As part of the report, the NFHS classifies sports in categories of lower, moderate and higher risk.
Lower risk sports that are sanctioned by the High School League include weightlifting, cross country running with staggered starts, individual running events, throwing events in track and field, individual swimming, golf, and sideline cheer.
Moderate risk sports sanctioned by the league include volleyball, baseball, basketball, tennis, softball, soccer, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump in track and field and girls’ lacrosse.
Higher risk sports include wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance.