By Earl Vaughan Jr.
For the first time in months, the light at the end of the tunnel back to actual onfield competition in the N.C. High School Athletic Association isn’t the headlamp of an oncoming train.
But NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker and her staff remain vigilant against reports of rising COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and nationwide. During a Zoom press conference earlier this week, Tucker spelled out the precautions the NCHSAA continues to stress as cross country and volleyball seasons begin statewide, and the date draws closer for the start of basketball practice next month.
The big requirement moving forward is the wearing of masks during indoor events. For now, this includes during competition and practice in volleyball, except in those cases where a student has a medically proven reason not to don a mask.
Tucker said the NCHSAA had several reports of teams that had to quarantine due to positive tests that took place prior to the mask requirement. She added she feels the mask rule will make it more likely that the NCHSAA will be able to complete the volleyball season.
Because their sports are now in season, volleyball and cross country teams can conduct regular practices and scrimmages along with actual competitions.
All other NCHSAA sports are out of season and in a skill development period. That limits what they can do, especially a sport like basketball which is considered high risk because it is played indoors and involves close contact.
Tucker said basketball teams cannot scrimmage at this time, not even 3-on-3 or 2-on-2. Tucker said there have been reports of some coaches conducting these kind of drills in violation of NCHSAA policy.
The only work basketball teams can do for now includes shooting drills, footwork drills and basic conditioning, she said.
Tucker said she is hopeful indoor sports that are out of season will, as she put it, dial it down a little during skill development and wait as much as possible for the actual start of official practice to avoid spread of COVID.
Although Tucker has no control over any programs beyond the NCHSAA, she also had a word of advice for coaches of club and travel teams in various sports who have continued to hold competitions and practice during the pandemic.
She said if she had a wish list, she’d wish for club teams to move into the background for an unspecified time and give high school teams a chance to play. Tucker said she had been told of club volleyball teams competing since summer without wearing masks.
She further encouraged coaches to ask their players to temporarily end their association with club programs if they want to play for their high school team. “Give us a chance,’’ she said.