VHSL adopts ‘Championships + 1’ schedule

Published 6:28 am Monday, September 28, 2020

Public school student-athletes from all sports in the area will have the opportunity to play for a state championship during the 2020- 21 school year.

John W. “Billy” Haun

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) Executive Committee meeting in special session Thursday, Sept. 17, voted unanimously to adopt the “Championships + 1” schedule for the Fiscal Year 2021 athletic and academic activities season.

This vote comes during a calendar year in which every sport was either canceled, postponed or otherwise impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Following is a summary of the “Championships + 1” Condensed Interscholastic Plan:

• Season 1 (Winter) Dec. 7-Feb. 20 (First contest date — Dec. 21) – basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swimming and diving, wrestling

• Season 2 (Fall) Feb. 4-May 1 (First contest date — March 1) – competition cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, volleyball

• Season 3 (Spring) April 12-June 26 (First contest date — April 26) – baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field

• Academic activities (December-June) – theatre, Scholastic Bowl, forensics, debate, robotics, film festival, creative writing, publications evaluation and multimedia contest

“We have received invaluable input from our school communities, parents, and students who say the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation is extremely important,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “The ‘Championships + 1’ schedule will provide sports in all three seasons.

“The VHSL Executive Committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect,” he added. “We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter, and spring sports season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”

For fall sports, the adopted calendar lists football in spring 2021 as featuring a six-game regular season. The first practice is allowed Feb. 4, and the first game is allowed Feb. 22 (it is March 1 for all other fall sports). Regional tournament periods will start April 7 with a completion deadline of April 17. The VHSL state semifinals will take place April 24, with the state championship games following on May 1.

For winter sports, the adopted calendar lists boys and girls basketball regular seasons as being composed of 14 games. The first practice will be allowed Dec. 7; the first game will be allowed Dec. 21; the regional tournament period start date will be Feb. 8 with a completion deadline of Feb. 13; state semifinals will be Feb. 16; and state finals will be Feb. 20.

For spring sports, the adopted calendar lists baseball and softball regular seasons as being composed of 12 games. The first practice will be allowed April 12; the first game will be allowed April 26; the regional tourney period start date will be June 14 with a completion deadline of June 19; state semifinals will be June 22; and state finals will be June 26.

To see the full “Championships + 1” schedule and details, visit www. vhsl.com.

“We voted in favor of the plan that was adopted, so we’re real excited that all sports get an opportunity to play this year, provided that Gov. (Ralph) Northam approves for us to play,” Buckingham County Athletics Director Russ Gowin said. “We’re still in Phase 3, and we’ve got to get out of Phase 3 to play most of the sports, so it will be his call as we get closer.”

Nevertheless, Gowin said he was pleased the VHSL has adopted a plan, set the guidelines, the number of games and the timeframes.

“It’s going to be compact, but all our kids are going to be excited about getting their sports in this year,” he said.

The VHSL’s decision is what Cumberland County High School Athletics Director Joseph Nowak was expecting.

“I’m not surprised that this is the way that it ended up going, and I’m in favor of it,” he said. “It was what both me, my school administration and pretty much all the other athletic directors in our district and region kind of were in favor of.”

Nowak affirmed it was definitely the best option for all schools under the current circumstances.

Prince Edward County High School Athletics Director Rodney Kane wishes one thing had been different about the adopted schedule, though.

“My personal feeling, and really our region, when we’ve talked about it, we really felt like they should not even have state championships this year because we’re already cutting down so much on the number of games that the kids have to play,” he said. “And by playing the state championships, you’re really knocking the kids out of playing at least three weeks that they could have extended the season, two to three weeks.”

He used football as an example.

“I think it would have been nice just to sit there and instead of playing six games, if we could have played eight, then we could have played everybody in the James River District and had district champions,” he said. With a chuckle, he added, “And everybody could just say, ‘Well, because of COVID, my senior year, we could have had won the state championship, but they didn’t have them my senior year.’”