GHSA gives green light for fall sports

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With a 12–0 vote last Monday, July 20, the Georgia High School Association’s board of trustees decided fall sports would still be played this season. The decision included a short postponement of the start of football across the state, but the silver lining is no games will be canceled and all other sports are set to begin on schedule.

Whether or not the GHSA would proceed with fall sports this year remained in question due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of the trustees’ approval, high school football will now start September 4. This is a 2-week pushback from the original start date of August 21. Dates of the state finals have been delayed two weeks as well, moving from December 10-12 to December 24-26. However, dates for the championships have yet to be set as of July 27.

Georgia followed in the footsteps of both Carolinas in delaying the start of fall sports, namely football for the home state. North Carolina and South Carolina decided July 15 to postpone their high school seasons until at least September 1.

Since COVID-19 crept closer to home, the GHSA has consistently, as far back as May, taken small steps toward the eventual approval to play in fall 2020.

The governing body of Georgia high school athletics began with approving an exception to allow physicals valid through the end of the 2019-2020 school year to be valid through July 27, 2020, the first official date for practice for 2020-2021.

From there, the GHSA approved a restrictive conditioning plan which began June 8, allowing teams to begin working out at that time with stipulations like group maximums of 20 people, specific sanitation procedures, social distancing requirements, and other similar measures.

In June, the GHSA increased the group maximum from 20 to 25 and began permitting the use of some sport-specific equipment. However, no scrimmaging of any kind (one-on-one, seven-on-seven in football, live batting practice that allowed a catcher and hitter within 6’ of each other, or conditioning/activity that didn’t allow for social distancing) was permitted.

By July 1, the GHSA gave the nod to up the group maximum to 50 if able to be done safely and allowed cheerleading, softball, and volleyball tryouts. No helmets, shoulder pads, girdles, knee, or thigh pads could be worn by football players at that time. That particular restriction would give within two weeks, perhaps the biggest indicator that fall sports, including football, would go on after all. On July 15, the GHSA elected to implement the use of football helmets beginning July 20 with stipulations that schools must sanitize the helmets in between workouts and prohibit student-athletes from using locker rooms.

All the while, the GHSA has continued to expect schools to report any and all positive COVID-19 cases. Safety has remained the GHSA’s top priority throughout, which is why the vote on July 20 included the delayed start of football.

The board of trustees took up a vote prior to last Monday that called for all fall sports to remain on schedule, but that vote failed 8–4 due to concerns for schools from bigger districts with denser populations and higher coronavirus cases. The delay would give these schools time to recover and better prepare for the season.

With the 12–0 approval on July 20, football began mandatory practices July 27 with full practices set to begin August 1. August scrimmage games have yet to be approved but could be moved back two weeks as well.

Cheerleading, cross country, one-act play, softball, volleyball, and flag football, a new addition to GHSA’s fall sports slate, will begin as normal.

Under the new start dates, Swainsboro will begin the season September 4 at home on Tiger Field against Metter while ECI will begin that same night on the road against Savannah Christian.

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