By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports writer
A daunting but fair question to ask in the age of the COVID-19 crisis is will high school sports throughout the state of Florida get to begin on time?
We ask this particular question because with the official cancellation of the remainder of spring sports for the 2019-2020 school year, we now shift our eyes on the 2020-2021 schedule and see high school football is on the horizon. Only problem with getting too excited for the upcoming high school football campaign is the possibility of no practices or games ever occurring because of the variables that apply to the novel coronavirus.
How will players be able to play such a contact sport like football which draws big crowds? Many ask how would it work with so many different avenues and hurdles to overcome and there’s no easy answer.
Professional sports are just finding ways to get back up and going but they also have millions of dollars at their disposal and at stake, but high school sports don't have those luxuries. Thousands of high school student-athletes could potentially be looking at another lost season at the hands of the novel coronavirus and without a vaccine or therapeutic out for the public, there’s no assurance that sports can fully take off.
The reality that sports may not take place in the fall is a somber feeling mixed in with anxiety because of so many questions and no good answers. Schools throughout Hernando County and the state of Florida for that matter heavily depend on the gate revenues of high school football games so they can put on other sports during the school year. If high school football isn’t able to put on games, tough decisions will have to be made by athletic directors in regards to other sports happening.
The season looked to be shaping up as a good one, with Nature Coast returning several key players from last campaign’s district championship squad. Hernando is on the come up and with so many young players, it’s hard to ignore that the Leopards were returning to prominence. Springstead has always sported a solid team with Mike Garofano at the helm and this fall could be very promising. Central and Weeki Wachee are under rebuilds but both are making steps in the right direction.
Nonetheless, football wouldn’t be the only high school sport taking a hit, as swimming and cross country would also be at risk if fall sports can’t take place on time. Every day that goes by and no real answer on the upcoming school year leaves more administrators, coaches and players wondering what will happen.
The state of Georgia is planning to resume high school sports in July, giving time for football to take place but will Florida follow a similar timeline? For right now, the state is under the full Phase 1 reopening stages and is moving towards reopening more parts of the state when it comes to the economy. Sports start to take place under Phase 2 and Phase 3 in the process for reopening so time will tell if restarting sports is in the books this summer. Until then, all we can do is wait for a resolution.
Update: According to MaxPreps.com: “The Florida High School Athletic Association announced that starting June 1, schools can begin conditioning, but this is a district-by-district decision. The FHSAA emphasizes that that member school follow federal, state, local and CDC recommendations and guidelines in all cases. Updates: fhsaa.org.”
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.