SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - High school sports are on in Georgia with the fall seasons now just a week away.
“We are on schedule to follow our calendar, as is a majority of the states in the country,” says GHSA executive director Dr. Robin Hines. “I have remained optimistic throughout this whole process, and I am still cautiously optimistic.”
Most fall sports will stay on schedule.
Softball games and cheerleading contests can begin next week. Cross country and volleyball are set to start a week later.
While football practice began as scheduled Monday, the season has been backed up two weeks. The first Friday night of the season is now planned for September 4.
“We’ve been at it for a while with conditioning, but it isn’t quite the same as actually getting the team together for practice,” says Benedictine head football coach Danny Britt. “So a lot of excitement, a lot of encouragement.”
While the seasons are on schedule, there are still many questions for what those seasons will look like.
“Things will be different this year, just from the way you gather, the way that you prepare, the way that you clean. The things you do to prevent as much exposure as you can,” Dr. Hines says. “Obviously, there’s going to be some exposure. There’s no question about that. But we also know the age group that we’re dealing with is not very susceptible to serious illness.”
The GHSA has provided and updated guidelines for activity over the past two months, and has left the decision on how schools and programs handle positive cases up to the local districts according to the district’s own infectious disease prevention plan.
Hines feels that has worked out well.
“They make those decisions about what works for them and how that happens,” he says. “I’m really pleased with the way our coaches and our schools are implementing those plans.”
The GHSA will also let local districts make decisions on attendance at games. According to this memo the association released last week, “Guidance regarding stadium seating, concessions, venues and spectators will be coming later…but will be made locally with an expectation of including Department of Health, local health professionals, and school district policies.”
WTOC reached out to all districts in the area. Many who responded say they are still making determinations on how attendance at games will be handled.
The GHSA says there won’t be any kind of mandatory testing protocol for student-athletes to compete this year. Hines says that would simply be too cost prohibitive.
“I don’t think we would ever mandate something like that because the cost of that is just exponential,” he says.
For now, official practices are underway in football and will begin later this week for all other fall sports. Hines says while the goal is to remain on the schedules currently set, the GHSA won’t be afraid to adapt if need be.
“We will have a plan in place for all those things,” Hines says. “But as I said, I’m cautiously optimistic at this point.”