Even though plenty of COVID-19 questions remain, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine made one thing clear — he wants Louisiana’s fall high school sports to begin on time.
“What I want to see is all the fall sports — football, volleyball, cross country and swimming — back in August,” Bonine said. “We need this for our coaches and for our student-athletes.
“It’s time to get back out there, though I’m not exactly sure what it will look like when we do. We may have to do it without fans in the stands.
“I listened to Sen. (John) Kennedy the other day and they asked him if he believed we can re-open the state. He said yes. And they asked if people could stay safe and he said yes.
“I believe that too. But as adults, we have to be smart about it and follow the guidelines we will get from the governor about reopening the state.”
Bonine said the LHSAA, like schools and businesses, await an announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards next week that should detail Louisiana’s plans on lifting a stay-at-home order that has been in place since March 16. It is now scheduled to be lifted May 15.
A plan to reopen Louisiana likely would include three 21-day phases, which Bonine projects would give the LHSAA the timetable needed to begin fall seasons in August. The LHSAA is working on a series of plans to prepare for whatever the re-opening plan and other possible complications might bring.
The LHSAA sent a memo to member schools last week that noted the NFHS calendar date to begin summer activities begins on May 17.
The memo noted that LHSAA’s plans would depend on Louisiana’s plans to reopen and the decisions of school superintendents and school districts.
Some key questions remain. Bonine said the LHSAA has submitted its questions to the Governor’s Office, asking specifically about the size of groups that could be allowed together and how that might change.
For example, Bonine said it could be groups of nine athletes and one coach at a time in a weight room, allowing time for equipment and restrooms to be sanitized before the next group comes in.
And from there, he said, the scenarios multiply.
“There are a lot of dynamics involved in this. School superintendents answer to the elected officials on their board,” Bonine said. “We as the state of Louisiana, regardless of whether the directives come from our governor or our parish presidents or mayors, certain things will be in place.
“Social distancing is going to be with us for another two to three years. The masks may come off, but social distancing and sanitization will be habits for us for a long period of time regardless of where we go.
“It is a lifestyle change for us. If we as adults don’t do what we are asked to do, then it will alter the start of fall sports. Those seniors in 2020 lost the entire spring semester. My kid was one of them.
“It killed us to see that. Now the seniors for 2020-21 … you could impact their season. Obviously, none of us want to see that happen.”
Bonine said questions about keeping the offseason playing field equal for all schools have been asked, with some suggesting that no activities, including weight training, begin until July 1.
“That is something we could do using bylaw 4.4.4,” Bonine said. “We stay in touch with our schools and coaches. Like everyone else, we do need to wait a little longer, see what Gov. Edwards and the groups he has working with him have to say and then go from there.”