The Transylvania Times -

Better Than Nothing – The Sports Calendar Isn't Perfect, But It Works


Last updated 8/17/2020 at 2:07pm

At a time when there are no easy answers, and no one-size-fits-all, silver-bullet solutions, the proposed athletic calendar put forth by the N.C. High School Athletic Association is about as good as sports fans could have hoped for.

I don’t think anybody envies the position of the NCHSAA – trying to work with a myriad of variables that are constantly changing to come up with a product that was never going to make hardly anybody happy.

They were also working against a tight deadline. With schools across the state opening today, the NCHSAA had its hand forced. It would have been virtually impossible to delay the fall sports season any more than it already had been.

A job is only as good as the tools provided to complete it. The NCHSAA didn’t have much to work with. So, the new calendar is what we get.

Is the final product flawed? Of course. But tell me any solution that has been offered to combat this pandemic that doesn’t involve a total shutdown that hasn’t been inherently flawed.

What the NCHSAA came up with is workable, practical and, most importantly, in the best interest of safety.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen when kids go back to school. We’ll have to wait and see.

But I’m sure the concern for outbreaks across the state in the coming weeks played a big role in the NCHSAA pushing back the start of sports until November.

As we’ve all witnessed over these past few months, COVID can take a huge toll in a matter of days. Schools in such states as Georgia, that reopened in almost a mocking fashion, with little to no regard for social distancing, mask-wearing or other precautions, shut down almost immediately, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the student body.

North Carolina has taken a more proactive approach to reopening its schools, and the NCHSAA has followed suit – using a cautioned, measured approach to returning to athletics.

But there are pitfalls in the proposal.

The most obvious challenge is for multi-sport athletes. Student-athletes will have to make hard choices about which sports they want to play.

A volleyball player that also plays basketball will likely have to choose between the two, as the seasons overlap. Even if a student-athlete was allowed to play two sports simultaneously, that would be a very tiring endeavor, and could result in fatigue-related injuries.

This becomes increasingly problematic for the final “season” in the spring, which includes baseball and wrestling, particularly for small schools.

Wrestling is a huge deal in the Smoky Mountain Conference. Teams like Swain, Cherokee, Robbinsville and others traditionally field entire rosters.

I imagine student-athletes at those school will pick wrestling – if it’s even offered – over baseball, creating a hodgepodge situation where only a handful of schools can field a team, and they likely won’t have anybody to play if they do.

Weather is also going to be a major headache. Winter sports in the mountains never happen according to the schedule due to snow or icy conditions. Now, with an extremely small window to play games, and practically zero wiggle room to reschedule contests, it’s hard to foresee that games won’t become collateral damage.

Football in February might require bonfires in trash cans on the sidelines.

Those same issues can pertain to spring sports, particularly in the rainforest that we call home. One of the last pieces I wrote before the world got turned upside down in early March dealt with that very issue – hosting games that must be constantly rescheduled in “Transyl-rainia County.”

It’s also unclear what would happen if an athlete or coach contracted COVID in the middle of a season. It’s further unclear what level of testing will be available to team members, as larger schools with more resources will have a leg up on smaller schools that will have to make do as best they can.

Again, this is a very imperfect system aimed at accomplishing an extremely difficult goal. But it is a system built on safety, and we all should appreciate that.

It’s also a system that relies on everybody involved to do their part in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

If people continue to act selfishly and ignore the health precautions, we’ll continue to languish in perpetuity and sports will never happen.

If people love sports as much as they claim, now is the time to prove it by doing everything in our power to stay safe, both individually and as a community.

November is a long way off ­– just over two-and-half months.

For perspective, that same time period, retrospectively, would put us back in late May, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Digging deeper, the monthly high for daily new cases in May was 1,185 on May 31.

Looking at data from July through August, there are only a handful of dates that didn’t surpass that figure from May.

COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere and it doesn’t care whether sports are played or not.

That’s why these next few months will be crucial.

We all have to play our part if we want the games to return. Individual actions have never affected the collective more than they do right now.

The NCHSAA has given us a template for sports to return. That’s all we can ask for.

The rest is up to us. So, what will we do?


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