FLORENCE, S.C. – Although the South Carolina High School League doesn’t see Phase 2 happening soon in its return-to-sports plan, its athletic teams can advance to a Phase 1.5 on Aug. 3, per an email from SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton to member schools.
That would increase fall-sport group workouts from 10 (nine athletes, one coach) to 16, and sharing of the ball along with other equipment would also be allowed (sanitizing, mask requirements and social-distancing rules remain intact). For winter and spring sports, the group workout numbers will remain at 10.
Next Friday, the SCHSL will talk more about this in a virtual meeting.
“The goal is to allow the athletes, coaches and staff to begin and/or continue in-person training and group workouts while maintaining a safe environment,” SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton stated in Thursday’s email. “It is imperative that if schools choose to begin implementing Phase 1.5, they do so under the guidelines set forth.”
Also, when it comes to weight training, spotters would be allowed under Phase 1.5, provided the spotter is masked and at the end of the bar.
Already, the SCHSL has delayed its start of practices from July 31 until Aug. 17, and the start of the football regular season is now scheduled for Sept. 11 with a seven-game regular season (football playoffs would begin Oct. 30 with 16 teams in each class, and state championships are set for Nov. 20).
It’s possible the fall seasons can be delayed further, based on the number of positive tests for COVID-19 in this state and teams’ abilities to host regular practices by Sept. 21.
The SCHSL sports scene, meanwhile, waits after the league’s appellate panel on Wednesday tabled a decision on an appeal by Lexington School District One after its plan was voted down by the SCHSL’s executive committee. Lexington One’s plan would basically move low-risk sports like baseball and softball to the fall, and football being played in the spring. The appellate panel will make a decision Aug. 10, and those sports seasons would indeed be switched if the appellate panel decides as such.
If so, that also means sports like baseball and softball would suddenly start practicing Aug. 17.
“I’m worried (the SCHSL’s) response to move to Phase 1.5 is a response to the appellate committee not making a decision and kind of forcing their hand,” said Matt Apicella, baseball coach and athletic director at Lake City.
“I think it’s a shame the appellate committee did not make a decision the other day. They were given one job to decide the appeal, and it seemed like they wanted to discuss everything else besides that.”
And that brings about Apicella’s next concern.
“My concern right now is they’re in a power struggle between the SCHSL and the appellate committee, and we’re forgetting the main goal,” he said. “And that’s to ensure the overall safety of the kids.
“I think it would be a travesty to give baseball and softball coaches seven days’ notice that the season’s going to start. You’ve got to do things like order hats, which requires doing that in advance. And then you’ve got all the other things, like the game balls and fundraising plans and everything. To give us seven days’ notice and tell us our season’s about to start is unfair.”