| Staunton News Leader
VERONA — Augusta County has delayed the start of high school sports this year, but, at least for now, the games are still on.
That’s something sports fans can be thankful for since, according to the Virginia High School League, as of Dec. 2, 20 school divisions have chosen not to play winter sports this year due to concerns over COVID-19.
Greg Troxell, the director of athletics in the school system, notified the Augusta County School Board Thursday night that basketball games will now begin Jan. 7 instead of Dec. 21. Wrestling and other winter sports will delay matches until Jan. 14.
“We feel this will protect our athletes from possible post holiday spikes,” Troxell said.
Tryouts, however, will still be held beginning next week as planned. Troxell said the reason for that is to reduce the number of players in the gym. Once players are cut there will be fewer people in the gym, making mitigation efforts, including socially distancing, easier.
Basketball teams will play 14 games and wrestling will have eight matches.
“Even starting on Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 we will be able to accomplish this if the third variable does not give us too much trouble, which is Mother Nature,” Troxell said.
In basketball, the regional deadline is Feb. 13 and the state championship is scheduled for Feb. 20.
Basketball teams will have to have at least eight players to play a game.
Only 25 spectators will be allowed in gyms, not including players or school personnel. It does include cheerleaders. Troxell said the 25 will be family members of players on the home team. Visiting teams can’t bring any spectators and the general public won’t be allowed in the gym to watch games.
Augusta County will be livestreaming games this year so more people can watch them. Middle school games will be played in high school gyms so they can also be livestreamed. Middle school games will start at 4:30 p.m., followed by junior varsity at 6 p.m. and then the varsity game.
Families of middle school players will have to leave after their games, as will junior varsity families.
Families will be charged $50. That includes a $25 athletic fee and $25 for a season admission pass that includes two family members. No money will be exchanged at games.
Spectators will have their temperature checked before entering the gym and they will be required to wear masks.
At this point, Augusta County is undecided if concession stands will be open during games.
The expectation of athletes who make a team, Troxell said, is that they not participate on any other team outside of school. That is to help reduce the possibility of transmitting COVID. That includes going to the YMCA to play basketball.
“This is going to be critical in keeping us going and moving forward,” Troxell said. “We’ve got to stay within, we use the term, our own bubble.”
He admitted that it will be very difficult to manage that, but he hopes parents and athletes understand the importance of that expectation.
Troxell said he has been in close contact with Staunton and Waynesboro in making the decision.
“I personally want to thank the ADs for their hard work they have already done and all the hard work they are going to do,” Troxell said. “They have definitely earned their keep so far this year and will continue as we move forward in this sports season.”
Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education and sports reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at newsleader.com.