(MetroNews Talkline interview with WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monday, August 17 is the start date for official preseason practices in all WVSSAC-sponsored fall high school sports. All counties however must clear one more hurdle before taking the field, court or cross country/golf course.
Before extracurricular activities can begin, individual counties must be given the ‘green light’ to do so. That clearance will come through metrics from Governor Jim Justice that have not yet been released. It is possible that those metrics, which measure a counties’ status with COVID-19 infections, may be released Friday.
“The plan is for fall sports to go ahead,” WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said Thursday on MetroNews Talkline. “We are waiting on the metrics for that plan to decide. It is going to be the same plan that decides if we are going to have school open in your county or not. It is also going to have a factor into whether or not you are able to have athletics.
“We know that there is a possibility that there may be some counties who don’t meet the metrics and will have to wait until their numbers improve before they get to participate. We want kids to participate but we want them to participate safely. This metric is going to measure what the density of the (COVID) infection is in your community.”
Dolan and his staff oversee all aspects of high school sports administration in West Virginia. After a spike in cases throughout West Virginia in early July, WV’s R-naught value, which shows rate of COVID spread, is tied for the eighth-lowest in the nation at 0.92.
“I think West Virginia has done an incredible job. We had a little blip in July when everybody went on vacation. But I think people have worked very hard to try to keep our numbers. We are the envy of everyone around us. But any day, we have shown that they could spike and cause problems in your community.
“It should drive the community to say we want (activities). We want to attend so we want our numbers better.”
Voluntary strength and conditioning workouts and sport-specific activities have been underway for many schools since early June. Some teams have had to temporarily pause practices due to COVID cases.
“We learned that coaches and administrators can do it responsibly. I think they have shown over a ten-week period — we had four weeks of just conditioning, our ‘three-week’ window and a couple weeks getting us to August 17th. But even with all the safety precautions they took, there were a few hiccups along the way. The counties and the health departments followed protocol and dealt with those.”
Dolan is hopeful that those in extracurricular activities can continue to lead the way in their respective communities by illustrating the best possible health practices.
“They are the leaders of the school. By them being good role models, it transfers to not only the community of the school, but also the bigger community around them. If they see you walking into Wal-Mart and you have your mask on, and they recognize you as a player or a coach and you are following the guidelines and walking the walk, then they would be like, ‘Maybe we should. Maybe it is important’. Our teams and our clubs certainly have a big role.”