Order to keep schools closed through May prevents resuming play
What Jones County’s coaches and athletes had feared has come to pass. The remainder of the spring sports seasons have been canceled, and they will not be made up.
That also includes spring football practice, which was to begin April 29, and the spring football game at West Laurens on May 15.
The announcement came last week after Gov. Brian Kemp ordered that Georgia’s schools remain closed for the rest of the school year to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“You could see this coming with the way things were developing the last couple of weeks,” Jones County athletic director Barry Veal said. “We hoped it wouldn’t happen, that we would be able to start back up sometime, but we have to try to keep people safe.”
In Jones County, that means the high school and middle school track, tennis, soccer, gymnastics, golf and baseball seasons ended on March 13.
“We hate it for our seniors the most, because they had their seasons end and they can’t make them up. This isn’t like the colleges that are giving their senior athletes an extra year of eligibility,” Veal said. “For our seniors, this means their high school careers are finished. My heart goes out to them. We’ve asked our coaches to let them know how much we care and how sorry we are for them.
“But you also hate it for all of our kids and coaches. They work so hard all year, and to not be able to finish is sad.”
In announcing the end of high school sports for this school year, the Georgia High School Association said it had received requests to allow seniors in spring sports to come back and play next spring for their schools, but officials said the high school model doesn’t allow for that. Once students graduate, they are no longer eligible for high school sports, and to try to make an exception for this class would disrupt high school sports for years to come.
The GHSA also reminded schools and coaches that they are not allowed to conduct any type of practices or workouts with athletes the remainder of the school year, and that the ban will remain in effect for an indefinite period this summer.
Veal said that does not prevent coaches from contacting their players by phone or internet to check on them, and that he has encouraged them to do so.
“It is like the remote learning our teachers are doing with students. We want them to stay connected and let all our athletes know we are concerned about them and want them to remain safe,” Veal said.
Veal also warned Jones County’s student-athletes to not gather together on their own to work out.
“They need to follow the social distancing guidelines and rules about being out and gathering together,” he said. “We want them to keep themselves and their families safe and help keep our community safe.”
Veal said summer camps and conditioning workouts remain on hold until the state and GHSA say that it is safe to resume practicing. “We don’t know when the summer activities may start or what limitations there may be when they do.”
Some fall sports, such as softball, volleyball and cheerleading, often have their tryouts in the spring so the teams can plan summer camps and workouts. But those tryouts are also on hold indefinitely. The GHSA has not made a decision but has indicated it may allow schools to hold those tryouts later in the summer if it is safe for teams to gather.
As for recognizing the graduating seniors for their athletic accomplishments with their spring sports teams, Veal said Jones County is considering having some sort of ceremony for them later in the summer or even next fall after it is safe for people to congregate again.