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NCHSAA: Football, soccer to start in the spring

The commissioner of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, Que Tucker, announced today that high school sports will resume, but with a schedule unlike any other year.

“The sports calendar that Commission Tucker is about to walk us through is different from anything  I could imagine we would ever need,” said Jerry Simmons, president of NCHSAA Board of Directors and principal at New Bern High School, in a press conference held Wednesday afternoon via Zoom.

Most notable in the amended schedule is the new high school football season, which makes the jump from the fall to the spring. Football’s first practice will be held on Feb. 8, 2021; first game will be on Feb. 26, and the final contest date will be held April 9. The season is limited to 14 games, with no more than two games taking place in a single week.

Men’s soccer will also start up in the new year, with the first practice on Jan. 11, 2021, and first games on Jan. 25; last on March 12. Like football, the season will be capped at 14 games, with no more than two games in a single week. Women’s soccer will be on hold until a March 1, 2021 first practice date, with the first game on March 15.

The first sports to resume will be cross-country and volleyball, with practices on Nov. 4 and first competitions on Nov. 16. Basketball will start with practices on Dec. 7, and first games on Jan. 4, 2021.

Softball will begin with a March 1, 2021 practice, a March 15 first game and end with an April 30 final contest, with golf and men’s tennis following the same schedule. Baseball, women’s tennis, track and field and wrestling will all mark first practices on April 12 and first competitions on April 26; these seasons will have their final contest dates on June 11.

Tucker said a wide assortment of stakeholders from across the state were consulted in the decision about the new schedule, ranging from representatives from each sport, school superintendents, all system athletic directors, the NCHSAA Board of Directors and physicians on the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to guidance from Gov. Roy Cooper, input from student athlete surveys and reports from other states.

“There is still much work to be done on the details of implementing athletic programs and contests during this pandemic, but we thank these committees and individuals for their hard work to bring us to this point. We recognize that this is a lot of information to digest and drastically different from the way the sport calendar has been aligned for years in North Carolina,” Tucker said.

Key goals in creating the new schedule were to treat every sport equitably and to minimize risk while at the same acknowledging there are significant negative consequences to not providing sports opportunities for student athletes, according to Dr. Josh Bloom, who is a member of the NCHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, as well as the head team physician for the Carolina Hurricanes and  head team physician and chief medical officer for USA Baseball.

“Our student athletes rely on the leadership and guidance of their coaches and mentors, the structure and discipline inherent in sports, and the camaraderie, joy, and excitement inherent in training and competing with their friends and teammates. For many young people, the void left without sports is filled with anxiety, depression, and despair. While the consequences of not participating may be more difficult to quantify than the risks of COVID 19 infection, we recognize these consequences of not participating are real and they are grave. With this in mind, we feel it is crucial to provide some good news and a plan for NCHSAA member schools to resume athletics. Accordingly, and with guidance from the CDC, the North Caroline Department of Health and Human Services, and from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, we look forward to providing a path to participation in the 2020-2021 academic year,” Bloom said during the press conference.

“We want our young people to be able to play but, for sure, we want them to play in a manner that is safe and healthy. We also care about our coaches and our essential operations folks who help our contests and who help our student athletes grow to be the best that they can be,” Tucker said.

Simmons thanked all stakeholders for their patience in awaiting the new schedule and thanked them in advance for continued patience in awaiting the details of the new seasons.

“You’ll find that there still are nuts and bolts that we will need to share in the coming weeks,” Simmons said.

View the entire NCHSAA press conference by clicking HERE.