When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of high school spring sports, the fate of resuming play in the fall was also up in the air.

The pandemic is continuing and state and local officials are outlining how high school sports in Georgia this fall will be conducted.

The Georgia High School Association held a meeting on July 20 to discuss the concerns regarding fall sports in Georgia. During the meeting, the GHSA board made the decision to allow for football conditioning to remain as scheduled on July 27, but the first week of games were pushed back to the week of Sept. 4, rather than starting Aug. 21.

GHSA President Glenn White said the football season would still consist of a 10-game regular season, followed by five rounds of playoffs. He also said during the meeting that all other GHSA fall sports will remain as scheduled on the current GHSA calendar.

Cherokee County School District Athletic Director Tonya Sebring updated the current situation regarding practices, as well as guidelines that have been put in place. Sebring said in an email that fall sports, which includes football, cheer, fast-pitch softball, cross country, and flag football, are conducting practices in accordance with guidelines set by the “Return to Play” protocol earlier this summer.

Sebring said that practices are limited to conditioning, skill development, and intra-squad competition with strict guidelines set forth by the GHSA. The GHSA has posted specific guidelines related to grouping, social distancing and workout restrictions, which can be found at www.ghsa.net. In addition, CCSD has trained all coaches participating in “Return to Play” on screening, sanitation and practice/conditioning protocols, she said.

Sebring said that the GHSA’s latest notice stated that all previous guidance and restrictions will remain in place, with the exception of a few revised changes. The changes include workouts, groups, tryouts, face mask, and water bottles.

These changes state that workouts will be conditioning only (intra-squad competitions are allowed but competition between schools is not), and sports specific equipment (including balls) may be used and should be sanitized between sessions. Football helmets will be available for use starting July 20, but no pads will be allowed until further notice. There will also be no locker room use.

Additional changes include allowing groups of 50 (re-grouping of participants is allowed if can be done safely), which includes coaches, for workouts per sport at any given time at the campus or facility. Mask and face coverings are recommended, and each student should have their own personal water bottle (water bottles may be refilled during workouts), but there will be no use of water fountains or “water cows.” The revision also states that cheerleading, softball and volleyball tryouts are allowed.

Sebring said that so far, CCSD has only received special considerations and rule modifications from the GHSA for the fall fast-pitch softball season. Among the changes are no team huddles where team members and coaches are not socially distanced. Teammates aren’t allowed to go onto the field to congratulate a player who hits a homerun. Host schools are also responsible for social distancing of fans and cannot offer a public concession stand.

CCSD is currently waiting on additional guidance from GHSA in regards to the upcoming football, volleyball, cross country, and cheer seasons. Sebring added that the salary schedule for coaches was adjusted for payout during the season.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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