While South Carolina’s private schools have begun football practice and still intend to play their first games later this month, the state’s public schools pushed back their start date again Wednesday.
The S.C. High School League’s Executive Committee approved the league’s updated Return to Play proposal, which postpones the first practice dates for football and competitive cheer — the two fall sports deemed the highest-risk for spreading the novel coronavirus — until Sept. 8. The first football games could begin Sept. 25 — two weeks later than the previous proposal — and competitive cheer would hold its first competition Oct. 13.
Girls golf, swimming, and girls tennis are slated to begin practice Aug. 17 with their first contests allowed Aug. 31, while cross country and volleyball would begin practicing Aug. 24 and start competing Sept. 7.
Because of the condensed season, the plan also calls for a reduction in the number of teams qualifying for the postseason, cutting that number in half for football, volleyball, and tennis.
In addition to laying out guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and S.C. DHEC to prevent the spread of the virus, the document also urges the importance of student-athletes, coaches, and staff to follow recommended guidelines including social distancing and wearing face coverings, as well as limiting the sharing of equipment and sanitize it between uses when possible.
The 23-page document also offers a list of sport-specific “modifications and considerations” that might be necessary for a sport to take place, ranging from the suspension of pre-game and post-game handshakes to mandating four balls be used for each tennis match, with two each marked “H” for home or “V” for visitor so players will not touch the same balls.
The proposal also leaves open the possibility of pushing the fall sports season to the spring.
“Winter and spring calendars may be modified to accommodate moving a fall sport into the athletic calendar in the event the sport is unable to hold their season in the fall due to COVID-19 conditions,” the proposal says.
Area private schools began fall sports practice Monday, with football teams limited to helmets only this week before progressing to helmets and shoulder pads next week and full pads Aug. 17. The S.C. Independent School Association is allowing cross country, swimming, tennis, golf, and volleyball to begin competition Aug. 17, with football games starting Aug. 28, following a separate set of guidelines.