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Plan announced for return of high school sports in Carroll County

Carroll County Supervisor of Athletics Michael Duffy announced at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday a plan that includes the first steps toward a return of high school sports.

There will be a two-week period, starting Monday, Sept. 14, in which non-sports related conditioning will begin to get students back into shape and start working with peers and coaches in pods of no more than 20 people.

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Procedures are in place to get the county’s sports programs prepared for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s two-semester plan that will have winter, fall, and spring sports competitions beginning Feb. 1 and running through June 19.

The MPSSAA on Friday released its “Roadmap for Return to Interscholastic Athletics and Extracurricular Activities.” It was approved by the state and developed in consultation with all 24 local school systems, schools superintendents, and the Maryland State Department of Education.

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“They’ve really given us a lot of flexibility,” Duffy said about the MPSSAA. “Some school systems are meeting only in a virtual format right now, some are doing it in person, some are only going to do conditioning, and some are going to move fully into only sports skills within pods of smaller groups of kids.”

“It really runs the gambit, but our expectation is that we’re not getting out of the school in the plan that we have to do sports-specific skills.”

The winter sports season is slated to run from Feb. 1 through March 27, the fall season March 15 through May 8, and the spring season April 26 through June 19, according to the MPSSAA’s projected timeline. Each season will begin with a 20-day preseason and will have five weeks of athletic competition available.

Maryland is in Stage 3 of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, and local school systems were given permission to make determinations regarding the extent of student participation based on the level of individual community spread and other factors identified by local health departments.

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As part of the state’s Stage 3 announcement, in-person activities may fully resume as long as schools comply with state or local restrictions.

“It’s really making sure — before we move forward — that we have not had any school-based activities in six months by the time it starts,” Duffy said. “Granted, a lot of kids are doing stuff in outside leagues, no doubt, but we want to ensure that before we jump into things that we have to prepare to move into the sports-specific stuff.”

Duffy said the first phase is open to all students on a volunteer basis and teams will not be selected during the first semester. The first semester will be broken into three distinct periods, starting with fall sports, followed by spring sports, then winter sports.

Duffy said this decision was made to keep multi-sport students from having to choose one sport and risk getting pulled in multiple directions. He hopes that by mid to late October, sports programs will continue with a two-week conditioning period followed by a four-week sports specific skill for fall, spring, and winter sports.

“Since we think there’s going to be a lot of crossover, our hope is to do a one-week conditioning followed by four weeks of spring, then one week followed by four weeks of winter,” Duffy said. "That’s our hope and everyone needs to continue to be vigilant and following all of our rules and expectations. We’re hopeful at some point we’re going to be able to get inside because that’s obviously going to be important as we get into that winter season.”

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