(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Many high school athletes across the state have entered the second phase of the WVSSAC-approved return to offseason activities. Coaches were allowed to start working in small groups with their athletes on June 6 in Phase I. Phase II has allowed for double the instruction time at up to two hours per day. Indoor workouts are now allowed as well, clearing the way for athletes to return to their respective weight rooms.
“I think it is working out well for the schools,” said WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan. “They are having some organization. They are getting kids back and they are able to work them in slowly and bring them on.
“I think there was as much talking going on with the kids face-to-face as physical workouts. That’s an important part of all this, the social and emotional part as well as the physical.”
Official preseason practice for most fall sports is scheduled to begin on August 3, leaving football teams time to compete in two scrimmages and have nearly four weeks of preseason camp. Dolan anticipates that once the regular season begins, disruptions to the schedule could happen if pockets of positive COVID-19 cases rise.
“Looking around, it would make sense that you would believe that there would be some spots that pop up to be hot spots during the year.
“However, once we get back into school, I think we found out in the spring that West Virginians have kind of stayed in their own neighborhood, so to speak. And we didn’t have any major breakouts.”
With two months remaining until the start of the football regular season, Dolan is hopeful that if Phases II and III are successfully navigated, a number of ‘what if’ scenarios about schedules can be avoided.
“Option number one is that this gets managed in July and we can start on time. There’s multiple scenarios of starting late and ending early, starting early and ending late. There’s different ones and you really can’t put any into place until you see more of these dominoes start to fall and you find out exactly how this is going to line up as we get closer to August.”
Teams will enter Phase III in July, which will be the traditional ‘three-week’ voluntary practice window. One significant difference this year is that teams can only practice or compete against themselves. No 7-on-7’s or scrimmage basketball games, for example, can take place.
“We are trying to keep this somewhat contained until we get to August when I think it is going to be a lot easier to manage because people won’t be traveling for vacations.”
As football season approaches, individual counties may soon make decisions on limiting attendance at games to comply with social distancing requirements. Any reduction in football ticket revenue could significantly impact other sports at each school.
“If schools are unable to have fans in the stands for football, that is going to be very challenging for them financially to make it. Yes, you can play games without fans in the stands. But can you afford to do it and where are you going to make it up?”