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On Georgia’s return to high school sports: ‘We want to do this right’

The Georgia High School Association.
The Georgia High School Association. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Georgia High School Association has taken its first major step toward resuming high school sports and plans to take things as slow as needed to make sure it gets things right, executive director Robin Hines said on Tuesday.

Last week, the GHSA said that schools would be allowed to resume voluntary workouts starting June 8. Hines said that from the beginning of the pandemic when spring sports were canceled, he targeted a potential return date of June 1 to coincide with the new school year. Several districts expressed concerns about starting things that soon, so the Association agreed to push it back a week to June 8.

“We didn’t know that was it, but that was out target date,” Hines said.

High school sports have been on hold since the coronavirus outbreak in March.

These workouts are more than just about slowly bringing sports back. The move to return is also about reacclimating athletes to physical activity.

“Our kids have been deconditioning for two or three months if you think about it,” Hines said. “I was a head football coach and athletic director in Dougherty County when the flood came [in 1994] and we lost all of July and we didn’t have our kids until school started and injuries really impacted our season. We want to do this right, ease them to get them back in shape so we can do things safely.”

These approved voluntary workouts are the first phase of bringing back high school sports this fall, but right now the GHSA does not have any timeline in place for when these restrictions will be lifted. The Florida High School Athletic Association hasn’t released any substantial updates since it announced the cancellation of all spring sports on April 20. Its most recent update was the announcement of offseason and summer guidelines on May 7.

“Obviously, we are going to take a hard look at the first week that we are in to make it just a conditioning week and who knows what is going to happen,” Hines said.

Hines did say that he hopes to be able to “off and running” by July 27 which is the first date of practice for football in Georgia. Hines is tempering expectations by saying the return “will be slow and we are not going to go as fast as everyone wants to go.”

While the June 8 restart date is a step toward bringing back high school athletics, there are still many questions that are unanswered.

Will fans be allowed to return? Will the season start on time?

Hines did acknowledge that not having fans at games would have a huge impact financially on many high schools, but he said that decision will likely be made on a local level.

“I hate to project too far into the future because we have a long way to go until the third week of August,” he said. “And for anything we did now would be hypothetical and speculative. We are going to take our time, one step at a time, and move forward. But there certainly is a possibility for some local decision being made about how those districts move forward.”

About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.