By Marty Gordon
The recent decision by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to postpone fall sports to the spring has left many concerns and questions for local athletic directors and football coaches.
All schools in the commonwealth will have to adjust to football in mid-April, which leaves the big concern of scheduling, not just for football but all sports.
Mid-December is the earliest any sport could begin. The tighter spring especially means a lot of headaches and questions for athletic directors.
Auburn High School AD Director Paul Dominy has been at the school for over 10 years and admits this year will be one of the toughest he has ever faced.
“I’m finding it more valuable to focus on how we respond to the new season dates rather than how it affects us,” Dominy said. “We are focused here on preparing our students for the highest quality experience we can give them in whatever time we get to practice and play“.
Several Auburn teams are currently doing out-of-season conditioning.
Eastern Montgomery High School AD Kirk Litton admits he will have to work within the framework provided by the VHSL. “I would prefer a full season to a shortened season and a shortened season to no season at all. The VHSL and MCPS will decide what we can and cannot do,” Litton said. “We are working within those parameters. We are still waiting to see what the guidelines are for length of seasons, contest limitations and playoff structure. We are expecting district scheduling to take priority.”
Litton said his biggest concern is scheduling being a trickle-down effect.
“Once the VHSL decides what type of format they will use for each sport and academic activity for state tournaments, then regions can set dates and then districts will know an end date for the regular season,” Litton said. “I think you will see multiple formats for how districts play their regular seasons. Hopefully the VHSL can put these committees together quickly so we can start officially scheduling. Transportation and officials all will fall into place once dates and schedules are decided upon.”
While it is not what everyone wants, Litton said, it is a decision that gives all teams an opportunity to play some type of season.
“At this time, it is a decision that was made with the best interest of the student athletes, coaches, officials and fans,” Eastern Montgomery’s AD said. “We don’t know what one month or six months down the road will hold and this is unchartered territory for all areas of high school sports. So we have to make decisions based on what we know and not what we think we can predict. I will just be glad to see the players back participating.”
Football seems to be the biggest area affected, and several local coaches still have questions.
Christiansburg High football coach Alex Wilkens thinks the VHSL decision will drastically affect everyone.
“On the human level this will affect school climate, coaches, players and all families,” Wilken said. “The routines of life will be a challenge. It will be a very different school year. As a coach, when we play the season doesn’t really matter to me, but figuring out the best practice for offseason dynamics will be difficult. We now reset our offseason and prepare for a season that’s seven months away . . . again,” he said.
The Christiansburg coaching staff has been working with players three days a week.
While Wilkens doesn’t like the idea of a shortened football season, he said the school and the team must play the hand it’s dealt.
“I will just be glad to play a season and let our seniors finish out their career,” Wilkens said. “We have no idea how the schedule will pan out, but we will likely play a district schedule with the possibility of a couple of other games or a bowl game. Naturally, that makes it hard on the smaller schools in the River Ridge District to have a good season by most people’s standards considering four of our six opponents will be 4A and 5A schools. We will have to play well in any game to win football games in our district. But that has always been the case and we enjoy playing good competition,” Wilkens said.
Eastern Montgomery head football coach Jordan Stewart is taking an optimistic approach to the situation
“It really doesn’t have that big of an impact on our varsity program,” he said. “If anything, it’ll help our middle–school program. It’ll allow coaches to hit the hallways throughout the year and try and pick up more athletes,” Stewart said.
The Eastern Montgomery staff has been weight lifting and doing conditioning for several weeks, going twice a week for a couple of hours a session.
The short season isn’t ideal, according to Stewart, but at this point, he said, he will take what he can get.
“We have a large group of seniors who have put in many years of working out and competing who deserve to have some sort of football season to end their high school career,” Stewart said. “We look forward to some cold practices and games; it’s better than dealing with heat advisories and lightning delays.”
In other VHSL matters, the group turned down a request by Giles High School to drop from the Class 2 to Class 1 classification. Ft. Chiswell did move from Class 2C to Class 1C.
The moves are effective for the 2021-22 school year.