The 39-page VHSL document announced last Friday, October 30, 2020, detailed plans ranging from transportation to and from games, to game-day setup protocols. It also included detailed guidelines for individual sports, including unique changes for a number of sports.
Here’s some of the biggest changes coming for sports during the 2020-21 school year under the VHSL’s Championship + 1 format.
There will be a new look to indirect and direct free kicks this year. Defensive walls will look different. Players must “reasonably” remain at least three feet from each other, or an arm’s length apart on restarts. This rule eliminates the traditional jostling in front of the goalkeeper.
The game clock will stop at the first natural stopping point after the 20 minute mark of each half to allow for the sanitation of hands and game balls and for a water break.
The jump ball will be eliminated from play for this season. Instead, the visiting team receives the first possession of the game. If a game goes into overtime, a coin toss will determine which team is awarded the ball first.
There will be no spectators on the first row of bleachers in order to maintain six feet of social distancing between the players and the fans. When team personnel occupy rows in the bleachers, there must be at least one row between them and any spectator.
Chewing seeds or gum and spitting will not be allowed this season by players or coaches. No physical contact, i.e. high-fives, chest bumps and hand slaps, will be allowed either.
Players will not be allowed to lick their fingers and wipe them off on their uniform. Additionally, pitchers will not be permitted to put their hands to their mouths or blow in their hands prior to a pitch. If this happens, umpires are expected to call time and the ball will be taken out of play for sanitizing.
Instead of one big start, meets will be expected to include staggered, wave or interval starts for the 2020-21 school year.
Schools are encouraged to use FAT timing for larger meets and the use of finish corrals or alternative ways to avoid congestion at the finish line.
Pre- and post-race handshakes will be eliminated and race results should be available online for coaches.
In terms of the competition itself, race organizers will be asked to consider widening the course to at least six feet at its narrowest point to help with social distancing.
Players are not allowed to leave the dugout area to congratulate players after home runs. Cloth face coverings must be one color and not distracting and cannot have a design.
Softball will abide by the same guidelines baseball has for pitchers and the licking of fingers. In addition, the home plate umpire should stand deeper than normal to call balls and strikes.
Athlete check-in areas for meets will be eliminated. Athletes will be expected to arrive at the venue already in competitive attire. If not, alternative accommodations should be made for swimmers and divers to change that allows for six feet of social distancing.
There will be multiple sessions for warm-up and warm-down periods to limit the number of swimmers per lane.
For divers, during competition, athletes can’t approach the board until its their turn to participate. Hot tubs should not be permitted.
Athletes will be asked to avoid using their hands to pick up balls, instead using their racket or foot to pick up balls and hit them to their opponent. If a ball is hit onto another court, players will be asked to send it back to the court by kicking it or using their racket.
Players also will be asked to avoid touching their face after handling a ball, racket or other equipment. They are asked to wash their hands promptly if they have touched their eyes, nose or mouth, before returning to play.
In doubles, players are supposed avoid all incidental contact. There is no whispering to each other at close distance to talk strategy. Postgame handshakes or congregating after play is not allowed.
Track and Field
For shot put and discus, to limit contact athletes will have to provide their own equipment and retrieve them after all throws.
In relay races, athletes will be permitted to wear gloves for the 2020-21 school year. Schools can bring their own batons to meets, or they should be disinfected after each heat or race.
In the high jump and pole vault, to lower the risk, meets can cover pits with a tarp that is removed and disinfected after each athletes uses it. That will require multiple tarps to keep the meet moving.
During competition, one coach will be allowed in a chair mat side. Wrestlers do not have to appear on the mat to be awarded a forfeit and referee shall not declare the winner by raising the hand of the winning participant.
Logistically, matches for dual meets or tournaments will consist of three periods with the first period being one minute, followed by two minutes for the second and third periods.