As of late last week, we know the new scheduled dates for the three-week prep sports summer practice period in Kanawha, Putnam and several surrounding counties — July 6-25.
Other than that, nobody seems to know much of anything.
It has been the norm as the unprecedented times in which we live seem to stretch farther and farther into the horizon. But in our deepening thirst for athletics, the three-week period is certainly open to speculation.
On Saturday, our Rick Ryan wrote about the uncertainty surrounding the period and the chances that it could be scrapped altogether.
Certainly, that remains a possibility, but assuming that the three-week practice periods do happen, what exactly can we expect to see during that time? No one seems to be sure, not even the coaches.
“I have the dates, but what does that mean?” George Washington girls basketball coach Jamie LaMaster asked. “Can we only practice? Can we compete against other schools? What exactly can we do?”
Good questions. But for now, no answers exist.
In terms of competition, Monday’s announcement from Gov. Jim Justice concerning the resumption of youth, non-contact sports on June 8 was certainly a good sign. At least for sports like baseball, softball and possibly soccer.
But it’s not just as simple as clearing sports. Not even close.
See, these three-week periods — again, assuming everything has a green light — are going to present some decisions for coaches and athletes alike.
First is the plight of the multi-sport athlete. Usually, spring sports coaches are fairly light during the three-week period since they coached their players a month or less before. But now, those coaches haven’t seen their kids at all, including batches of freshmen who have still yet to take the field, track or tennis court as a high school athlete.
Logic would say that those coaches would make more of a push to see their kids this time around. However, other school sports aren’t likely the only competition.
July puts players smack-dab in the middle of travel sports season, assuming those programs have been cleared to run as well. And it presents quite the quandary, especially for athletes aspiring to play sports on the next level, as travel tournaments present great opportunities to be seen by multiple college coaches.
Most prep coaches I’ve talked to over the past few weeks have said they would be catering to such things. Poca softball coach David Skeens said his team would likely meet during the week, leaving weekends open for travel tournaments, while South Charleston coach Chrissy Orcutt said she wouldn’t even meet with her team in hopes they would be with their respective travel clubs.
In basketball, another aspect of the travel dilemma could play out. Currently, two evaluation periods for NCAA Division I basketball coaches loom in July, one from July 6-12 and the other from July 21-25, both of which fall under Kanawha County’s three-week period.
Obviously, the NCAA could reschedule those dates as well, but for any player with Division I basketball dreams, those opportunities are basically can’t-miss.
Also in basketball, there are annual shootouts scheduled for the three-week period that attract teams from all over the state for one- or two-day events. Locally, St. Albans and George Washington have perennially hosted events that are, at best, in question now. Basketball is considered a contact sport, and so far there has been no word from Justice on when those sports may be cleared. Even if they are held, could fans and parents attend?
Considering student-athletes have been out of school since March and haven’t competed in that time frame either, would throwing them into games immediately be a smart move?
West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan said the organization wouldn’t likely step in and set any kind of mandates in terms of how to approach the three-week period, but hopes that common sense will win out.
“What we’re saying to them is make sure you’re doing right by the kid,” Dolan said. “Make sure what you’re doing is right for them over the course of a whole season and not just the three-week window.
“We hope everyone realizes that they’re not going to get everything done in three weeks. If they get a minimal three-week period, life will go on. I think schools have to be wise. It’s a long year and you don’t want to get a kid burned out or hurt during the three-week window.”
Dolan added that the SSAC would try to provide guidelines to coaches as the three-week period approaches.
But writing guidelines for situations the likes of which the world has never seen is a tough business.
And, come to think of it, we know two things about these three-week period — the possible dates, and that they will be unlike any other three-week period before them.