Pirates

The Port Charlotte football team, and all other fall sports teams in Florida, won’t be able to practice until Aug. 24 at the earliest after a vote by the FHSAA Board of Directors on Thursday night.

Three days after high schools were approved to begin the fall sports season next Monday, that date has now been pushed back to Aug. 24, at the earliest.

The Florida High School Athletic Association Board of Directors met for the second time this week on Thursday night via Zoom to vote on items in the report presented by its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on Monday.

With new coronavirus data coming out each day, the FHSAA voted, 11-4, in favor of postponing the fall sports season at least four weeks — reconvening by Aug. 17 to re-evaluate the new information.

This affects all fall sports — football, volleyball, golf, cross country, swimming and diving and bowling — effective immediately. Schools will be allowed to continue summer conditioning in the meantime.

“I hope they push all seasons back a couple weeks so our athletes in all sports have the opportunity to play full seasons,” Port Charlotte football coach Jordan Ingman said. “Seniors in high school only get one senior year and I hope our state does everything it can to provide them with the opportunity to play full seasons and not settle on reducing everyone’s seasons until that is the last option.”

Though the meeting began with Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca motioning to postpone football and volleyball until at least 2-3 weeks after schools open and positivity rates dropped to near 5% over a 28-day period.

“Every person that I’ve talked to in an education setting about this issue begged me for guidance,” Patricca said. “They begged me, ‘We desperately want guidance from the FHSAA.’ It’s a lot for schools to open right now, and sports are something extra.”

However, after roughly two hours of discussion, this motion was withdrawn.

After some more discussion, Citrus County School Board member Doug Dodd then motioned to postpone all fall sports, which ultimately passed.

Thursday’s meeting was a quick reversal of course for the FHSAA that at first had voted to allow school districts to begin fall sports when they deemed safe — beginning July 27.

This caused several counties across the state to push back their start dates into August or September. Now, those decisions are moot unless counties decide to form their own conferences, as some — such as Charlotte County — had discussed earlier this week.

“We will follow all guidelines that the FHSAA provides us,” Charlotte High athletic director Brian Nolan said. “There are many moving parts in determining if we play in a conference or an FHSAA schedule. Our number one option is to continue FHSAA play.

“I feel if everyone on the board had a little more time to digest the SMAC report they would have come to this conclusion on Monday. So in the end, in my opinion, they got it right.”

If the FHSAA brings back fall sports on Aug. 24, there will likely have to be a two-week period of acclimation that has to be allowed to protect against injury and heat exhaustion — pushing competition back to the week of Sept. 7.

If the season can be extended, or if lost games can be made up are problems that remain unsolved. But for now, coaches and players are simply holding on to hope of playing this season.

“I think it is great,” Venice coach John Peacock said of the FHSAA vote. “It lets counties that are not ready to start getting ready. Hopefully everyone will be able to start on that date and things will get back to normal.”

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