Area school districts begin pushing back starts of sports practice

Clay, Columbia, Flagler and St. Johns will start seasons later

Creekside quarterback Quinn Sieger scrambles during a 58-51 win over Nease last year. (Photo by Ralph Priddy)
Creekside quarterback Quinn Sieger scrambles during a 58-51 win over Nease last year. (Photo by Ralph Priddy)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – High school districts across the state continued to react on fall sports practice dates by pushing back the starts of their seasons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake up the athletic calendar.

In the wake of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s decision to leave the fall sports calendar unchanged, Columbia, Flagler and St. Johns counties all announced athletic start date decisions on Wednesday afternoon.

The FHSAA has called another board meeting, this one scheduled for Thursday night at 5 p.m., to sift through more data following its Monday vote that has left districts around the state scrambling.

Updated: Where area counties stand on restarting sports

Columbia and St. Johns opted to push sports practices for all sports to Aug. 17, with games to begin no sooner than the week of Aug. 31. St. Johns district athletic director Paul Abbatinozzi said in an email that “High Schools can be eligible to begin athletic contests no earlier than the week of August 31st, 2020.” Columbia County is also aligned with that start date.

According to a source, Clay County will also push back the start of its athletic season.

FHSAA on Return of High School Sports
FHSAA on Return of High School Sports

Flagler left its return to high school sports open ended.

“Flagler Schools has made the decision to postpone all fall sports until further notice,” the district said in a release.

“What does this mean for our athletes? Our conditioning program will continue as it has since it began last month, with safety protocols in place. Currently, our teams are in Phase 1 of our multi-phased system. However, tryouts and practices will not begin on July 27th as originally scheduled. The head coaches and athletic directors at each school can give additional information to our students and their families. District staff continues to work with school administrators and athletic directors to monitor and reevaluate our protocols.”

Columbia and St. Johns counties won’t allow sporting events prior to Aug. 31, which wipes out as many as three football games for some programs, including some high profile games like Nease-Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine-Menendez.

It has been a volatile week on the high school sports front as school districts around the state scramble to put the pieces in place for sports during a pandemic.

The FHSAA left its sports calendar largely unchanged during a sometimes contentious board vote last Monday — schools can start practice July 27 — and put the decisions in the hands of individual districts.

That has left quite a few areas scrambling. Miami-Dade County superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said on Twitter Wednesday that the district “is disappointed with the @FHSAA‘s decision to maintain July 27 as the start date for Fall Sports. This decision will result in inequities and create limitations for our student athletes.”

Vice chair Steve Gallon III said in a statement: “They did not even listen to the recommendations of their own Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. We have heard the FHSAA loud and clear. They now need to hear from us.”

Gallon suggested that Miami-Dade public schools could withdraw from the FHSAA.

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