Welcome back to Phil for the Game, my column that provides you a glimpse into the sports communities of Boone County.
I don’t think anyone would argue that football is king in West Virginia. All you have to do is look at the gates, swag sales and concession numbers, and it is clear who rules the roost.
I think football is the one sport that, if you are visiting family from out of town and the local high school is on the gridiron, you may cruise down to the field and throw down a few bones to watch some kids you don’t know slug it out.
For me — that is baseball. Wherever I am, if I’m on vacation in Florida or in New England, I like finding random high school games to take in.
If you’ve followed CVN sports, you’ve read the interviews I have done with Scott High football coach Shane Griffith, Sherman’s Michael Showalter and Van’s new skipper, Mark Agosti.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for these men and how they are running their programs — at least from what I have seen with my own eyes.
While this column is primarily about football, I have thought about the challenges regarding volleyball enclosed in a gymnasium and the fact that cross country runners and golfers have the advantage of being outside and virtually no contact with their opponent.
I’ve been monitoring situations across the country in reference to football season, as it and wrestling are probably considered among the sports with the most contact amid COVID-19 concerns.
In California, the high school season has been pushed back to December or January.
In Lafayette, Louisiana, Jacob Lemaire, an offensive lineman at Teurlings Catholic High School, was hospitalized after being infected with COVID-19 and developing pneumonia, and he spent four days in an intensive care unit as he has asthma and saw many complications. There are other examples, but Jacob’s was one of the first.
Many high school football teams across America, including in hotbeds like Florida and Texas, are moving forward during the pandemic despite the risks.
Iowa is the only state to hold high school sports in the summer and it could serve as a barometer for the rest of the country.
The baseball and softball seasons were slated to begin in May, but the pandemic put both sports on hold until they were set to return on June 1 — as practices began — and were followed by competition two weeks later.
Six weeks later, things were a little rocky in Iowa. According to statesman.com, as many as 26 baseball teams and 22 softball teams had been affected by COVID-19 infections or exposures.
This means a two-week quarantine with no games or practice for the team, if a player or coach tests positive.
States like South Carolina made decisions relatively early. On July 10, the S.C. High School League Executive Committee approved a proposal in a 14-2 vote to push the start of fall sports competition back until September because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal calls for teams in all sports to play region games first, with the flexibility to add non-region contests later in the season if desired or even possible, moving forward.
In West Virginia, the start date for fall sports practices has been set back from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17, the Secondary School Activities Commission announced in mid-July.
I think that the cautious-but-not-paranoid approach that we’ve followed has been warranted and of course, this can all change on a dime depending on the numbers we produce across the state. I don’t think we’ve been non-committal as some coaches have expressed. I think it really is a day-to-day observation process.
I hope and trust that we are monitoring what has and hasn’t worked across the country this summer, taking into account that every state has its own unique challenges.
In the end, the proof will be in the pudding as they say. Will the states that have moved forward without much caution be the real victors, or will they be saddled with regret? Ask me in November.