Hygiene and hypotheticals

Administration making plans for fall sports amid pandemic

Panther+alumnae+Paige+Andrews+%28class+of+2020%29+aboard+second+base+awaiting+the+next+hit.+Replacing+last+year%E2%80%99s+seniors+is+not+the+biggest+challenge+facing+softball+and+the+rest+of+the+fall+sports+teams.+The+biggest+question+relates+to+COVID-19+and+if+teams+will+even+have+a+season.+

Annika Pepper

Panther alumnae Paige Andrews (class of 2020) aboard second base awaiting the next hit. Replacing last year’s seniors is not the biggest challenge facing softball and the rest of the fall sports teams. The biggest question relates to COVID-19 and if teams will even have a season.

As the start of the school year draws nearer, concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic raise questions such as how athletic seasons will be handled and how fan attendance will be affected. 

To answer some of these questions, the GHSA Board of Trustees met on July 20 to discuss plans for the forthcoming fall season.

In that meeting, the Board decided to push back the football season another two weeks, but keep all other fall sports schedules the same. They also urged schools to follow their official “Guidance for Acclimatization and Practice with recommendations and/or restrictions” starting Aug. 1. 

[T]here are going to be guidelines to follow.”

— athletic director Shane Ratliff

The GHSA was not available to give a comment regarding their recent meeting.

For Panther nation, the administration has been working out what direction they are going to take. 

“[Handling fan attendance] is an ongoing process,” assistant principal and athletic director Shane Ratliff said. “We have not 100% put in protocols yet for the fan experience… We’ve met [as a county] about all of our sports, every single sport so far in the fall, about what it should look like, but we have not concretely put exactly the terms of what it’s going to be.”

Ratliff mentioned that there are some things that are already set in stone: wearing a mask at indoor events is mandatory but is optional for outdoor events, and all concessions will be prepackaged. PA announcers will be required to announce regularly for spectators to stay six feet apart from others, except for family, and follow other CDC guidelines.

Starr’s Mill has also decided to ban the use of cash and turn to card and mobile payment for purchasing tickets. In addition, the school has purchased camera systems from Pixellot so fans may stream sporting events from home. More details regarding streaming will be announced at a later date.

“Parents will have transparency,” Ratliff said. “They will know exactly when they walk in the gate what it’s going to look like. Same thing with kids. I don’t want to get into too much detail since the county has not sent it directly to the principals to be approved…but there are going to be guidelines to follow.”

The administration hopes to have guidelines laid out for volleyball and softball by softball’s first home game on Aug. 13. Guidelines for football are expected to be established by the team’s scrimmage against Newnan on Aug. 28.