Uncertain future for high-school sports

Published 12:22 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

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The Georgia High School Association doesn’t have the answers.

All schools in the state have closed because of the coronavirus threat, and all sports activities have been suspended, including games and practices.

When the schools will open again, and when and if the sports seasons will resume, are questions that can’t be answered at the moment according to GHSA executive director Robin Hines.

“It’s tough,” Hines said on Wednesday. “The majority of emails and communications I receive are typically from, well, I’ve got quite a few from kids, student-athletes and parents of seniors. And it’s like, ‘please don’t cancel the season.’ But what everyone needs to understand is that our concern is for the safety of our student-athletes, and also those with whom they come into contact. That’s a big deal, tool, because we go out and we have these large crowds, groups, gatherings. Then there are people who go see their grandparents or parents of people with underlying health conditions and that sort of thing.”

Governor Brian Kemp has mandated that schools remain closed at least until March 31, and what will happen after that remains to be seen.

“Well, the first thing is that we’re going to comply with whatever guidance or mandate that’s given us by the governor,” Hines said. “I feel like he’s handling things in the appropriate fashion. It may not be what we all want, but the fact of the matter is that this is a serious thing. In 38 years in education, I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.”

Hines said the GHSA will “be prepared for any scenario. That’s what we’re working to do. We’ll start with (the fact that) schools are closed by mandate through the 31st of March. Now what happens after that, that’s the big question.”

The GHSA staff met in Thomaston on Tuesday to discuss possible ways to salvage the spring sports seasons.

“My instructions to our associate directors who are in charge of (specific individual) sports is to look at all possible scenarios and see if we can (resume the seasons),” Hines said. “For instance, is there going to be an opportunity for an abbreviated season and an abbreviated championship? We’re about at the point now to where whatever the championships may be, they’re certainly not going to look like what they’ve looked like in the past. There may not be as many participants, for instance. The way that the regions choose their playoff participants may be different. We don’t know all those things. We’ve got (more) meetings scheduled to talk about those things … (so) when we have definitive information that is going to guide our process, we can say definitely this is where we’re headed.”

There is the possibility that the spring sports seasons won’t continue. The college seasons have already been canceled, and a number of professional sports leagues are on hiatus.

“All we can do with this thing (right now) is guess,” Hines said. “If you look at what the NCAA has done, what major league sports have done, what the colleges have done, we’re not very different. If it’s going to be harmful for us to gather in groups, then we need to be prepared for that scenario. If something happens and the guidance from the CDC and the board of health is different and giving us a scenario where we can continue some form of the spring sports and the championships, we will certainly do that.”