Phase 1: SCHSL paves way for sports to return

Local high school athletic teams have the green light to resume practices and workouts. Sort of.

The South Carolina High School League released a three-phase plan for schools to resume athletic activities as early as Thursday, June 4 with safety precautions designed to protect students and staff from COVID-19.

“We’ve had an initial discussion with our coaches,” said Clinton High Athletic Director Louie Alexander. “We’re trying to come up with a plan for the summer, but it’s still in the works.”

While the SCHSL Board of Trustees approved the June 4 start date, language in the ruling left some coaches and athletic directors across the state shaking their heads due to ambiguity in the language of the ruling.

In addition to the start date, the SCHSL noted that schools should also be providing “academic services” to students before workouts can resume.

Laurens District High Athletic Director Tommy Spires said there is debate among athletic director as to what exactly constitutes “academic services.”

He said some are defining “academic services” as online classes or graduation activities, which would allow them to start workouts Thursday. Others believe the return to actual classrooms is the signal to return to the playing field. LDHS students are not to return to physical classrooms until July.

“Right now, we’ve already met and have our action plan in place,” Spires said. “With the SCHSL leaving it kind of open, we don’t have an official start date yet.”

The SCHSL board is to meet again Thursday and could clarify the language in its ruling.

“A lot of people would like to have seen a definitive start date come from the committee,” said Alexander. “But it would be difficult to do that and suit every single school district and every single school. Everyone is in a different situation and leaving it to the individual districts and schools is what has to be done.”

Both Alexander and Spires said whenever football, volleyball and other fall athletes return they will follow all guideline set forth by the state, which includes temperature checks and extra cleaning as well as limits on facility usage.

“We have everything in place with pre-screening and cleaning the facility,” Spires said. “Coach (Darryl) Smith has a plan for football and Coach (Erin) Lake has a plan for volleyball. We will start with our fall athletes first and go from there.”

Alexander said CHS is set to adhere to all guidelines set by the state, but coaches and teachers are ready to get their students and athletes back at school.

“I think the thing we all miss the most is just the daily interaction with the kids,” he said. “We miss spending time with the kids every day and talking with them. That’s what we miss the most.”

Even if the SCHSL explains Phase 1 of its plan more definitively Thursday, Spires said students will have to get physicals and take care of insurance and other paperwork before activities can begin in earnest.

“Once we do start, and implement everything to do with it, we’ve got one chance to be right, so it needs to be right,” he said. “There are a lot of things that go into opening up.”

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