The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland have made the decision to postpone fall practices to a start date of Sept. 1 or later.
The two bodies that govern private school sports in Maryland met Wednesday to discuss options for the fall season and released a joint statement Friday morning.
The decision comes just a few months after the MIAA and IAAM led area athletics by announcing the cancellation of the spring sports season, in April.
“At this time, we anticipate that league play will commence on or after Sept. 21, 2020. Revised schedules will be issued to keep within the projected timeline for fall athletics.The IAAM and MIAA will continue to reevaluate the viability of interscholastic competition for the fall season,” per the MIAA/IAAM press release.
The announcement felt like a bit of hope to Indian Creek athletic director Tyler Larkin, especially as other area athletic associations such as the District of Columbia State Athletic Association have opted to postpone all interscholastic athletics until January 2021. High school governing bodies for Harford County, Howard County and Prince George’s County Public Schools have voted to begin the year virtually.
“That could just be a personal feeling at this point. I mean, shoot, we’ll do everything we can do to make something happen, but the way things are trending nationally — if major football conferences can’t figure it out, I don’t know,” Larkin said. The Ivy and Patriot Leagues are among several collegiate conferences to cancel or postpone fall sports.
Glenelg Country Director of Athletics Paul Weir said he has been “extremely pleased” with the communication of both leagues during the process and that has allowed his staff to prepare for many different possibilities.
“We’ve been working with both leagues and preparing since May for a number of different scenarios, so that has us in a great position to be flexible,” Weir said. “And flexibility is the big thing I have been stressing with our coaches during the zoom calls we have, making sure that they are ready to put forth a plan for the kids that is great whether we are on campus or not.”
According to Larkin, even schools that choose virtual learning to begin the fall semester could still allow fall sports to continue.
“This extra two weeks is meant to help schools figure out what their on-campus schooling looks like,” the Larkin said.
Weir stresses that even with this announcement, the situation remains fluid.
“I’m very confident in this plan and our ability to follow through on having sports this fall, but we also understand that things could still change several more times between now and September,” Weir said. “There are a lot of unknowns and things outside of our control, so all we can do is focus on those things that we can control to make sure that things are as safe as possible when the student athletes return ... whenever that may be.”
Mount St. Joseph is coming off of a MIAA football championship last fall. Despite the eagerness to return to the field for all of its Fall sports, athletic director Kraig Loovis said the school is focused on “the safety of the student-athletes.”
The board of governors for both leagues plan to reevaluate in mid-August and all “blackout periods and out of season practice policies” will be waived until further notice from the leagues.
Per the leagues’ previous policy, there is a two-week period before the start of fall preseason — usually around Aug. 1 — where coaches cannot meet with athletes and students must train on their own. This waiver allows each school to make its own choices on how much involvement it will allow.
New Gerstell athletic director Phil Gilotte said the leagues’ joint decision was more positive than anything else.
“I’m much happier than them just canceling outright,” said Gilotte, who took over July 1. “I’m pleased that they decided to take some time and see if later in the fall is possible. Seeing what happened [earlier], and what those athletes kind of lost in the spring ... nobody wants to see that.”
St. Mary’s volleyball graduated much of its IAAM B championship-winning team and coach Sarah Heary estimates they’re about three, four weeks behind in preparation. Summer is typically the time to get a feel for her athletes’ skill and development, and right now, volleyball can’t access the gym.
That’s why those two weeks in which Heary could be working with her players is extra helpful.
“I’m just happy they didn’t cancel everything yet. I think we’re all just excited that there’s still a chance, hopefully, for us to play,” Heary said. “Not sure what it’s going to look like or when it will happen, but I just appreciate they’re still trying to see what they can make happen in a safe way.”
“The IAAM and MIAA share a common commitment to athletics as an extension of the educational process. Participation in healthy athletic practices provides our student-athletes opportunities to compete, build character, acquire, and improve skills, demonstrate leadership, and have fun. Both leagues hope to honor this commitment and, at the same time, keep athletes and their coaches as healthy as possible,” per the MIAA/IAAM press release.
This story will be updated.
Baltimore Sun Media sports editor Brent Kennedy and Carroll County Times sports editor Pat Stoetzer contributed to this story.