E.A. Sports Today

Summer high school competition canceled

AHSAA Central Board cancels summer competition, but allows certain workouts; experrience will be key when seasons do get underway
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
Don’t look for June off-season basketball playdates or 7-on-7 football events this summer as the AHSAA has canceled all summer competition due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The action does not include certain workouts and conditioning, and schools can still hold camps with their students and feeder schools.
The actions came following two days of meetings between various sports contingency committees and state health and education officials.
State schools superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey is “hopeful” schools will reopen campuses June 8 and start the 2020-21 school year as planned. The high school football season is scheduled to start Aug. 20.
Broad-based health guidelines related to summer activities are being established for when schools reopen and will be released on or before May 22.  

Everyone involved in high school sports will be impacted by the decision, some doubly more than others.
For Alexandria’s Todd Ginn, the elimination of 7-on-7 competition and limited offseason group work will impact the development of his Valley Cubs’ football team. The elimination of summer play impacts his Champions Sports Academy, which every summer hosts dozens of boys and girls basketball teams in team camp-like tournaments.
“Luckily for us, the 7-on-7 aspect didn’t hurt us as much; we do that more for defensive purposes,” Ginn said. “The group (restrictions) will hurt us more than anything. I’m anxious to see what they’re going to decide as far as how many people they’re going to put in the group. If they say only eight at a time and two coaches, that’s going to be more of a big deal for us not being able to get out there and work with your whole group. That’s really going to hurt folks.
“They might as well come back and say you’re only going to be able to do weights and conditioning until such and such date because you’re not going to be able to get out there in a group of eight and get any game type experience at all in any drills in any form and fashion.”
Basketball could feel an even bigger pinch, especially teams with new head coaches or inexperienced rosters. Champions Sports Academy draws dozens of teams from throughout this part of the state for its June camp dates and was completely filled on both the boys and girls sides this year.
“Around here that’s a huge deal because we have so many good football programs a lot of these schools get started in basketball so late they don’t get to play about 20 games during the real year,” Ginn said. “The fact they’re getting to play 12 games in four days and some more than that, they’re playing two-thirds of their season in the summer that you’re just not going to be able to make up for. And there’s no way in the world you’re going to be able to play pick-up because your groups are too small.”
In accordance with AHSAA bylaws, mandatory summer practices are prohibited, but weightlifting, conditioning, individual skill development, and workouts are under the jurisdiction of local schools. Schools must comply with all state education and public health guidelines including, but not limited to, the number of students within non-interchangeable groups and the overall number of groups.
Based on the new bylaw passed by the membership, fall sports can start practice one week earlier if they did not conduct a spring evaluation and may use this week as a tryout period. Schools will determine the number of groups and individual group size limitations (currently set for 10 per group).

“I’m all for the safety of our athletes, but I’m hoping they expand the amount of athletes per session,” Weaver football coach Justin Taylor said. “I mean, we are about to have hundreds and in some places thousands of people on campus for graduation so I think we should be able to have more than 10 people per workout.”
One of the highlights of White Plains’ basketball off-season preparation is the team going to camp at Lee University outside Chattanooga where it plays more than two dozen games in a four-day period and determines player roles 1 through 12. The Wildcats usually follow that with play dates at Champions Sports Academy and Oxford High School for nearly 35 games in a summer.
Now, none of that is going to happen.
“We’re just really sad about it,” Wildcats coach Chris Randall said. “This is the first year in 25 years I hadn’t been to a camp in Tennessee. For our kids and our program it’s one of the highlights of the year. They absolutely love going to camp. It’s just part of our culture. I can’t tell you how fun it is to get away. We hate it for the guys who are going to be seniors next year because it was their last chance to go to camp, but we’ll back next summer hopefully.”
The impact of not having summer competition won’t be as detrimental to the Wildcats as it could be, because they return nine veterans who have been through the battle before.
“Any other year for us it would have been a big blow because coming out of the summer we know who are the starters, who are the guys coming off the bench, who is not afraid to take the big shot, guard the other team’s best player, who’s the best help defender, who’s the toughest,” Randall said. “Any other year it would’ve really hurt, but with nine guys coming back those roles are already defined for us. It doesn’t hurt as bad as it would have. What you miss is the memories you make in camp.”

Modified evaluations for fall, winter, and spring sports were presented. 
For this year only, winter sports may hold an evaluation period during the first two weeks of school (five days within a five-day consecutive period) or start practice one week earlier – but not both. Winter sports are allowed to hold a regular evaluation period (five days out of a ten-day consecutive period) during the second semester. 
For this year only, spring sports may hold a regular evaluation period (five days out of a 10 day consecutive period) any time after the first two weeks of school during the first semester or begin practice one week earlier in January – but not both. If spring sports chose to conduct a regular evaluation period in the fall (five out of 10 days) or start practice one week earlier, they may hold an additional five-day evaluation period within five consecutive days in the spring after the completion of their season. 

“This year in particular we don’t have a large group of baseball-only guys so my guys will be lifting and conditioning with the football players,” White Plains baseball coach Wes Henderson said. “We will still use the appropriate time for separate skill development through the summer.

“I like the idea of starting practice a week earlier in the spring, but since we will have our evaluation period in the fall, I don’t see the early practice happening for us. I do like that they are giving us the five days after the season to have an eval period. We may use that to our advantage. On the football side, no 7-on-7 stuff will hurt. We were looking forward to that”
Meanwhile, the AHSAA Medical Advisory Board, along with the ALSDE, is creating basic health guidelines for the schools to follow once campuses reopen. The minimum guidelines will focus on physical distancing, group activities based on square footage, respiratory coverings (face coverings), sanitizing equipment, hand washing, etc. 
Schools should prepare alternatives for conducting physicals for the upcoming school year. Mass physicals on same day at one location appear very unlikely. The Medical Advisory Board recommends students get a physical from their primary care provider prior to the first practice date. 
Schools also should prepare to provide accommodations for those students who are at risk or whose parents feel it is not yet safe to return to school.

“This is one of those years you hope to have all mainly seniors and some juniors so they know the system and you’re relying on not having to get folks ready,” Ginn said. “Not having a spring and then not having this summer is going to be really tough. Experience is going to make a huge difference this year. Those older teams are going to have a big-time advantage because you’re just not going to be able to do the things as a group that you need to do and I think that’s across the board in every sport.”

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