When will sports resume?
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He doesn’t know when sports teams in the state will be able to get back on the field, but Georgia High School Association executive director Robin Hines is hopeful that it won’t be much longer.
Hines was a guest on the “Georgia Prep Sports: From a Distance” video podcast on Monday, and he talked about the possibility of re-opening things this summer.
Although he was unable to offer specifics, Hines did mention the possibility of allowing teams to do something as early as June.
“Where I am, and where I think the association is with that, we want to be able to open up at some level throughout the summer, so the kids can train, get ready,” Hines said. “We talked about this before, especially in the sport of football, how long do you go with no activities to where it becomes a safety issue in itself? And so I am still hopeful that we will be able to open up, and let’s speculate, say June. We’ve got a month left. Let’s see what happens, how the curve flattens, and I think we’ve all done a good job of social distancing, staying apart.”
The fall sports seasons are scheduled to begin in less than four months, with the first regular-season football games on tap for Aug. 21.
Hines, speaking from his home in Warner Robins, said “we’re going to reach a point where we’re either going to become recluses, or we’re going to open things up, because whenever that is, if it’s the foreseeable future within a year, a year and a half, the virus is still going to be present. And so, I think at some point, people are going to make the decisions that we’re going to go and open things up. Now we want to do this with the science behind us, and reduce the odds of people getting sick. We certainly want to protect our student-athletes and those they come in contact with, but I am still hopeful for a, whatever normal is, fall.”
Hines was asked about the possibility of communities opening things up from a sports standpoint on different dates, and he would prefer that everyone starts at the same time.
“This school can start, and this school can’t start, does that create an imbalance,” Hines said. “At some point, we’re going to have to make some decisions about when to get started, and that’s why I’m hopeful that we can have a blanket statement for the entire state. That would be much preferred from my standpoint.”
When sports teams do return, Hines stressed that things won’t return to normal right away.
Hines said “it may not be at full speed, it may be in small groups, and maintain social distance and do those things, that our kids can come to work and spread that practice out over the entire day rather than one large group and that sort of thing. We’re not real sure what that’s going to look like, but that’s what we’re hoping for, that we will be able to do that.”
Hines did stress the importance of continuing to stay away from group gatherings.
“I know that there are places where I’ve had reports of kids getting together, and dangerously so, and putting on their own seven-on-sevens,” Hines said. “Don’t do that. Give it a chance. People are going stir crazy, and they’re ready to get out, and they’re ready to do some things. Hang on a little bit longer, and let’s stop the number of cases, let’s continue to flatten the curve, and we’ll be much better off down the road.”
Hines is hopeful that a vaccination is on the way, but he feels that it’ll likely be a year or longer before that becomes a reality.
Nonetheless, Hines stressed that at some point things need to open up while minimizing the risk.
“I think we’re going to reach a point, and you’re seeing this throughout the country with people protesting and this sort of thing, that they’re ready to get out and weighing the odds is starting to swing the other way,” Hines said. “What I’m looking for is for a great reduction in the cases that are showing up, a great reduction in hospitalizations and those sorts of things as we move forward.”