What’s Next For High School Sports?

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This fall will be like none other in the past for the county’s student-athletes.

In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, fall sports will not take place at public schools across the state. That means no Friday night lights, no Saturday morning major cross country races or any other events that spark so much interest from parents and casual sports fans.

“The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) in consultation with the Maryland state superintendent of schools, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Public School Superintendent Association of Maryland (PSSAM) has decided to postpone the 2020 high school fall and winter competition season during the first semester,” the MPSSAA explained in a press release on August 3. “This decision comes in light of the recent announcements of local school systems to begin education virtually and provides each school system with options for the gradual increase of student engagement for the physical and social-emotional health of students.”

As of now, coaches aren’t permitted to work with their athletes during the school year. Although they were able to work with their players during the summer on rec or club teams, they were forced to observe the MPSSAA’s 80% rule, which states any paid or volunteer coach at a member school may coach a non-school team provided the team has no direct affiliation with the school. That outside team’s roster cannot exceed 80% of the returning players of what would constitute a starting lineup in that sport.

“As a coaching staff, we are not meeting or holding workouts with our players,” Severna Park volleyball coach Tim Dunbar said. “There are probably some players who have self-organized and are working out together, but not at the direction of the coaches. If any workouts are occurring, they would be voluntary, entirely player initiated, player organized, player run and not part of any tryout or evaluation process. So, to summarize, we (the volleyball coaches) are not doing anything except following the lead of the Office of Athletics, our [athletic director], and waiting patiently for further instructions before we proceed.”

Clayton Culp, Anne Arundel County coordinator of athletics, and the county’s athletic directors are working toward an opportunity for in person and/or virtual athletic student engagement during the first semester for all three seasons. There is much to be decided and approved. This includes the MPSSAA season dates and parameters for the official MPSSAA seasons that will begin February 1, 2021.

“The county and the MPSSAA are being appropriately cautious. In any other year we would all prefer to be training and preparing for the season opener, but this is not any other year,” Dunbar said. “I'm sure it is disappointing for players right now - especially for the seniors who are in limbo about their final season - but they are a mature, resilient bunch. They will persevere and come out the other end of it better people with a greater appreciation for participation, and isn't that one of the goals of high school athletics?”

WHAT’S NEXT?

According to the MPSSAA’s Roadmap for the Return of Interscholastic Athletics, the MPSSAA, the MDH and the PSSAM will continue to collaborate on finalizing a hybrid two-semester plan focused on student engagement options in the first semester and modified competition seasons for all sports during the second semester. Details of the hybrid two-semester plan will be available prior to the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. The two-semester hybrid plan will focus on providing all sports with a modified competition season during the second semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. Decisions on state championships or culminating events for the second semester have not been determined at this time as all options are being assessed.

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