Anne Arundel County Public Schools athletics will devise a plan to hold various sport-specific practices that meet local and state health safety protocols during the first academic semester, it was announced Monday.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association released its decision Monday that postponed competition until February 1, 2021 at the earliest, joining multiple athletic organizations around the country that moved its athletics out of 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The practice sessions created by AACPS athletics would work to help replace the fall and winter seasons during the first half of the school year.
Clayton Culp, coordinator of athletics for Anne Arundel County, has until the first day of school (Sept 9) to formulate his plan and present it to Superintendent George Arlotto. Culp will collaborate with high school athletic directors and coaches within the county to come up with the best possible solution for Anne Arundel athletes, in lieu of actual, school-sanctioned play.
Culp considers the Anne Arundel athletics community as one large family and acknowledged the sadness in a lack of a “traditionally-timed” season.
“More important than the competition, I’m certain everyone who loves high school sports will miss the community engagement that naturally occurs at our events, whether that be a cross country meet, a basketball game, or a bocce match,” Culp said. “With that said, I am very confident in the ability of all the leaders involved in our program to be flexible, creative, and keep a positive outlook as we collectively facilitate new, out-of-box experiences our student-athletes during this school year.”
Culp feels confident in his colleagues as he and his fellow athletic directors and coaches work through ideas.
“This is particularly true of our dynamic and caring coaches who have always been in this for the bigger picture - the life lessons taught through sport - more so than x’s and o’s and wins and losses,” he said.
The MPSSAA’s decision to postpone through the first semester of the academic year comes three months after the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also follows the two bodies that govern private schools throughout the area, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, which announced last week that they postponed fall practices to a start date of Sept. 1 or later.
“The health and safety of student participants, coaches, and officials is a primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” the MPSSAA release said.
The fall sports season was set to begin with tryouts Aug. 12. Sports played in the fall season under the MPSSAA are field hockey, football, volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, and golf.
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.
Southern-Anne Arundel boys basketball coach Will Maynard 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.
“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 fall 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.”
In some areas, the lack of sports presents a far greater challenge.
Herman “Tree” Harried, Lake Clifton’s athletic director and longtime boys basketball coach, said not having sports in Baltimore City for the fall and winter seasons brings 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 and keeps them focused. 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 just that personal contact, 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.”
Baltimore County said on July 21 that it is 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.
BCPS Coordinator of Athletics Michael Sye later confirmed the decision in an email to the county’s athletic directors.
Howard County on Wednesday and Anne Arundel County on July 24 announced that they were delaying the start of the fall season.
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.”
Montgomery County, the largest school district in the state with 25 high schools, went a step further and canceled the fall and winter sports seasons on July 21 as it will conduct online-only learning through at least Jan. 29.
There will be no fall sports in Prince George’s County, either.
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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 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association wrote in a statement earlier this month that it “is moving forward with the normal start of the fall sports season unless otherwise directed by the Commonwealth.” On Wednesday, however, the PIAA issued a statement offering flexibility to schools to begin contests Aug. 20, Sept. 14 or no later than Oct. 5 unless requested.
The California Interscholastic Federation announced 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.