xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland public schools postpone fall and winter high school sports seasons because of coronavirus concerns

The MPSSAA on Monday postponed the fall and winter high school sports seasons in Maryland.
The MPSSAA on Monday postponed the fall and winter high school sports seasons in Maryland. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is postponing the fall and winter high school sports seasons, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing and case counts climbing back upward.

The decision comes as many school districts delay in-person learning, and three months after the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season because of the pandemic. It also follows a similar move by two bodies that govern area private schools, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, which announced last week that they postponed the start of fall practices to Sept. 1 or later.

Advertisement

“The health and safety of student participants, coaches, and officials is a primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” the MPSSAA news release said.

The fall sports season was set to begin with tryouts Aug. 12. The MPSSAA’s fall sports are field hockey, football, volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, and golf.

Advertisement

The winter seasons are boys and girls basketball, wrestling and indoor track and field.

The MPSSAA is working to finalize modified competition seasons for all sports during the second semester, according to the release.

Michael Duffy, Carroll County’s supervisor of athletics, said it’s heartbreaking to imagine a fall without high school sports, similar to the lost spring season.

“It wasn’t completely unforeseen. It’s still not what we want to be happening,” Duffy said.

“From the MPSSAA and the superintendents, and the state superintendent, I think from all their perspectives, with so many school systems beginning in a virtual setting, it makes it very difficult to have in-person athletics, sponsored by the school systems, if there’s not going to be in-person education. And I think that was really the driving force.”

Brad Duvall, who coaches the girls soccer team along with the track teams at Hereford, believes it was important for the MPSSAA decision to be made at this time so student-athletes, parents and coaches have an idea what lies ahead.

“It’s been up and down, and the last couple months there’s been a lot of speculation and nobody knew what’s been going on,” he said. When students, parents and coaches know the outlook for the next few months, that’s “a good thing. And I did see in the statement that they’re going to give all sports an opportunity in the spring semester and that’s all we can ask for,” he said.

Century field hockey coach Terry Duryea said it’s tough to explain to her players why they can’t get ready for a varsity season with club and rec programs in full swing.

“I also would have liked to have the opportunity to tell the players myself,” she said via text message, “and we unfortunately were not given that because the decision was made so late. This is an emotional time for so many, and I truly hope ‘postponed’ means that, and that the girls will eventually get to have their sticks in their hands. It’s so important to them.”

For Havre de Grace football and boys basketball coach Brian Eberhardt, the uncertainty of coronavirus makes for a difficult waiting game.

“These things are historical and completely out of any of our hands. Nothing I can do about it as a coach, and it’s just an odd time, and we’re all just trying to feel our way through,” he said.

“I certainly feel really bad for those seniors, you absolutely do. ... We have to take it on the chin now, so that we at least get something down the road, the foreseeable future anyway.”

Advertisement

Herman “Tree” Harried, athletic director and longtime boys basketball coach at Lake Clifton in Baltimore City, said the absence of sports canbring on concerns much more significant than any wins and losses.

“I’m just sad and feel bad for our young people as well as being concerned for our young people because now they’re working virtually from home, and they don’t have athletics either,” he said. “Sports occupies a lot of their time, helps keep them out of trouble and gives them a focus ... . Now, they don’t have that. They don’t have the personal interaction with their teachers and coaches, people that help guide them along with their family members.”

“It’s providing them with a comfort zone when they’re dealing with things at home, or other issues. We serve as a safety net to these kids, and now the net has been taken away from them. We can talk to them on the phone or virtually, but that personal contact and seeing them, it’s totally different.”

Boys basketball coach Will Maynard of Southern High School in Anne Arundel County expected this mandate from the state.

“As selfishly as we all want to play, it’s not worth the health. I would love to be working with my team right now. I would love to know I’d be working in the gym with my guys [on] November 15, but it’s not worth it,” Maynard said.

Maynard remains hopeful his players’ basketball season will be salvaged.

He contrasted the postponement to Montgomery County’s cancellation of fall and winter sports: The state’s largest school district nixed those seasons July 21, as it will conduct online-only learning through at least Jan. 29.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t do what Montgomery County did, canceling, saying we’re not doing anything,” Maynard said. “That’s a good thing. All you can hope for is: At least, give us a chance to reevaluate. It’s kind of extreme to cancel something now. You never know. Things could change.”

One of Maynard’s rising seniors, forward Jake Koverman, lost his junior season to injury. Maynard considers him a Division I prospect, making this winter especially important to Koverman’s future.

Koverman is still likewise hopeful for a basketball season, perhaps in the spring. In the meantime, he’ll work on defensive and offensive skills on his own and take part in tournaments here and there, such as one in Pennsylvania later this week.

“It affects a lot, but I still work hard,” Koverman said. “Coach Will will still look out for the best for me. Either way, I’ll still have the best opportunity and still get college looks.”

Meade football coach Mike Francis is equally optimistic for spring play and fully understands why the season had to be postponed.

”All I’m concerned about is the kids not able to enjoy their senior year, and all those others guys, too, coming up from JV. It’s just sad they’ll miss out on the experience,” Francis said. “But I’ll always say safety is still the priority. It does me no good to have a state championship [ring] and not be alive to wear it.”

Baltimore County said on July 21 that it was postponing the start of the athletic season “while instruction is virtual and until it is safe to conduct all the various facets of organized team sports,” according to its draft reopening plan. The winter season traditionally begins in mid-November.

Howard County on Wednesday and Anne Arundel County on July 24 announced that they were delaying the fall season.

Advertisement

However, the Howard County school system announced in a press release that the “decision by the state supersedes any decisions by local school districts. Therefore, athletic competition will not occur until the second semester at the earliest.”

Advertisement

Numerous high school governing bodies across the country have been postponing or canceling their fall sports seasons, though some will forge forward.

The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, which features numerous private high schools in the D.C. metro area, announced last Tuesday that it will cancel the fall sports season and wrote in a statement it is “currently exploring various scheduling options with a start date of January 1, 2021.”

Last month, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association chose to shift all of its athletics until January, while the Virginia High School League decided last Monday that it will play three condensed seasons starting Dec. 28.

The California Interscholastic Federation announced July 27 Monday last Monday the start of the high school sports season will be delayed until December or January, and in Texas high school football seasons for schools with large enrollments will be delayed a month, although smaller schools will be allowed to start their football seasons on time.

Baltimore Sun Media reporters Katherine Fominykh, Pat Stoetzer and Randy McRoberts contributed to this article.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement