NCHSAA alters sports timeline

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High school sports will not start until Nov. 16 at the earliest following a ruling by the NCHSAA.

The 2020-21 high school sports calendar has officially been turned upside down.

Hopefully, the ship will right itself in 2021, but for right now, sports seasons have altered, shifting all sports including football, to next spring.

For local high schools, Highlands and Blue Ridge Early College, who don’t field football teams, they still have to do some juggling with volleyball and soccer overlapping beginning in January. 

With the N.C. High School Athletics Association’s announcement that it would shift all fall sports to spring, high school athletic directors will be left scrambling to find players, facilities and even officials when the schedule doubles up in April 2021.

Blue Ridge Early College Athletic Director Tim Mayse, who is also the school’s girls basketball, golf and cross country coach, sees a possible shortage of athletes, facilities and most importantly, officials, when trying to get the logistics in order for spring. 

“A lot of football officials also officiate other sports in the spring, so there could very well be a shortage of referees and umpires with all the school year’s sports schedules crammed together like this,” Mayse said.

Not to mention stretching the school’s athlete pool way too thin, especially in smaller schools like BREC, where the majority of athletes participate in multiple sports throughout the school year.  

“The way the seasons overlap, especially volleyball and basketball, if we make the playoffs in volleyball, we’ll have basketball and volleyball games going on at the same time,” 

But at least they’ll have a plan, and after the 2020 spring season was unceremoniously shut down, Highlands Athletic Director Brett Lamb appreciates being able to play a limited schedule.

“I am glad there is a vision and calendar that we can start preparing for,” he said following NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker’s announcement. “This is a different look but with the pandemic I feel we are lucky to be at this point with sports.”

There are still many protocols and logistical things to learn about and work through before teams can play their first game, Lamb said. 

“We are going to have some serious overlapping on the schedule and with our athletes. So that is going to be the biggest issue is how our conference and games will be scheduled. Not to mention that if we have any weather related issues that will cause games to need to be rescheduled. But as commissioner Tucker said we have hope and a vision of what this coming year will be like and after our spring athletes were shut down I appreciate being able to play a limited schedule.” 

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, Commissioner Tucker made the announcement via a live-stream on You Tube and the NCHSAA’s Facebook page. 

“Our goal is risk minimization is important in everything we do,” Tucker said. “Participation opportunities are very, very important. We want our young people to be able to play, but for sure we want them to play in a manner that is safe and healthy.”

Tucker stressed that equity among sports is very important. 

“We want our student-athletes to know that all sports are being treated equitably.”

The new sports schedule is staggered with typical fall sports cross-country, volleyball, and swimming and diving beginning practice in early November. For cross-country and volleyball, their first date of allowed competition falls on Nov. 16. The season must conclude play by Jan. 8, which will include a 10-meet schedule for cross-country and 14 matches for volleyball, at a maximum of two matches per week. 

Boys and girls basketball begins practice on Dec. 7 with its first games falling on Jan. 4. The 14-game schedule must conclude by Feb. 19. 

Boys soccer, typically a fall sport, can begin practice on Jan. 11 with its first match beginning Jan. 25. The 14-game boys schedule must conclude by March 12. Practice for girls soccer begins on March 12 with the season beginning on March 15. The girls soccer schedule must be completed by April 30. 

Golf, baseball and track-and-field all begin practice on March 1 with play beginning on March 15. The season must conclude by April 30. 

Highlands, BREC and Summit Charter School field a football team, which will play a truncated seven-game schedule between Feb. 26 and April 9. 

While it might not be what senior student-athletes want ultimately, a little bit is better than nothing. They just want the chance to compete. 

Highlands new volleyball coach Desiray Schmitt has seen her debut season moved back a month and now has to wait another four months before she can take the court with her team. Right now, the new coach plans to work out with her team until their season is set to begin.

“We don’t know how it will affect us, a lot still needs to be figured out from what I understand,” Schmitt said. “I plan on still working with the girls but don’t know what days we’ll be in the gym yet.”

Summit Charter School Director Kurt Pusch said while his new high school is not yet a NCHSAA member school, his student-athletes are participating in workouts as staff working to prepare for the 2020-21 sports year. 

“As a new high school program, Summit Charter School is not yet a NCHSAA-member school,” he said in a statement on Aug. 13. “However, we do follow NCHSAA guidelines for reopening sports at Summit. We are currently working to update our sports calendar for the year to reflect NCHSAA’s amended sports calendar for 2020-21 released on August 12.”