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Virtual sports set to begin Monday for Harford’s public school athletes

When Harford County Public Schools turned down the offer late last week to begin fall sports, virtual sports has become the focus, front and center.

Debbie Basler, Harford County’s supervisor of athletics, released this statement.

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“Registration opened today, Monday, October 5. We will not have a set number of participants; students will be allowed to review the challenge for that week and choose whether to join in. Athletes do not have to participate and the competition is not limited to students who have been involved in HCPS athletics in the past. Any HCPS high school student is eligible to join the competition!”

Students can compete by visiting the athletics page at hcps.org to register.

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Athletes involved in any offered fall sports can take part for their school, with the idea that they are competing against athletes from other schools. Fall virtual sports include cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer and volleyball.

There is also a conditioning challenge offered for all athletes. The fall season is broken down by weeks, starting Monday. Next week is a three-day week as schools dismiss early Oct. 15 and are closed Oct. 16.

Coaches are encouraged and allowed to check-in on athletes once a week.

The conditioning challenge is a Zig Zag Square Jump: 1, 2, 4, 3. Athletes are asked How many times can you complete the 1, 2, 4, 3 challenge in a minute?

The sports specific challenges are:

Cheerleading: How many sets of kicks can you complete in a minute? Change legs every five kicks.

Cross Country: Virtual 5K race (two weeks to complete). Send results to donald.mickey@hcps.org by Oct. 21.

Field Hockey: How long can you maintain an air dribble?

Football: Add distance of all three challenges: punt, kick and pass (distance).

Golf: How many putts out of 10 can you make from 10 feet away? Use a plastic cup as your target.

Soccer: How long can you maintain a consecutive juggle? You may use your feet, thighs, head and chest.

Volleyball: How many consecutive wall bumps can you do in a minute?

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These fall challenges, with conditioning and sport specific changes made every week, will go on for three more weeks, ending the week of Nov. 2 to 6.

There is support from coaches.

“I am looking forward to getting to know my players better before the season starts. I don’t normally get to meet the freshmen until the first day of tryouts. Virtual conditioning and competitions will also give me some insight to see who is dedicated and ready to play,” Harford Tech girls volleyball coach Sheri Billings said. “Having the opportunity to coach volleyball in the spring is giving me more time to prepare for the condensed season and incorporate some team bonding activities that normally wouldn’t happen.”

Matt Berg, who also teaches and coaches girls soccer at Tech, said, “It’s a great opportunity to re-engage the athletes, to increase their motivation to work on their conditioning, and to get to know them a little. I think it could be a great motivator for the student athletes and I especially look forward to the spring competitive season.”

Longtime C. Milton Wright cross country coach Donnie Mickey said, “I think giving the kids a goal or something to look forward to is always a good thing. Is it what everyone wants, no; is it better than nothing, yes. For cross country, virtual racing has been the norm since COVID hit. It is definitely more difficult to race on your own. CMW will have a number of kids participate in the virtual 5Ks.”

For athletes, it’s still a question. Currently, there are nearly 2,000 student athletes participating in leagues for girls soccer (700); boys soccer (400); field hockey (355); and volleyball (329). Those numbers also include some athletes from private schools and public schools in Harford and Baltimore counties.

Allie Berger, an Aberdeen junior, is playing in the Top Flight Girls Soccer League and she’s aware of the virtual sports. “I haven’t really looked at it. I know we have a meeting with our coach Wednesday, so it’s kind of waiting to hear what our coach said and as a team to kind of play what I was going to do with the season with virtual sports,” Berger said.

Teammate and school mate, Amanda Bryant, is an Aberdeen senior and multi-sport athlete. “Well, after participating in this [girls soccer league], I think it’s a little much, because I do have a rigorous course load this year as I am a senior,” Bryant said. “I will be on the calls with my coaches, but I don’t know if I will participate.”

Spring virtual sports (baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and tennis) will follow from Nov. 9 to Dec. 4, while winter sports (basketball, wrestling, swimming and cheerleading) will run from Dec. 7 to Jan. 14 to close virtual sports.

Should schools go back in session for semester two as planned, the winter competitive sports season will run from Feb. 1 to March 26.

The fall season will follow, beginning March 15 and run through May 7. The spring season will close out the school year, beginning April 26 and concluding June 18.

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