Prep sports allowed to practice

Watauga’s football team finishes up its spring workouts in 2019.

BOONE — Watauga’s athletic teams will not be blocked by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association from resuming practices in June.

That may not matter.

The NCHSAA will end its “dead period” by allowing prep sports programs to participate in summer workouts on June 1. The NCHSAA officially canceled all athletic events, practices and skill enhancement sessions on March 13.

But, high school athletic programs still must abide by rules set by state and local governments. They also must abide by their local school district policies.

Watauga High football coach Ryan Habich said the Pioneers are still not allowed to be on campus or to gather as a team. The state still mandates that fewer than 10 people are allowed to gather at any event, including sports.

All of the school facilities are still closed to student-athletes.

“Lifting that dead period June 1 did absolutely nothing for us,” Habich said. “We’re in the same situation we were in before. We probably anticipate in Phase 3 that we are able to do some workouts with restrictions possibly in the summer. As far as June 1, there is not going to be any high school who is allowed to do workouts on campus on June 1.”

“The June 1, 2020, date was intended to give all systems that are currently out of session or will be out of session in the next week a common date for when the NCHSAA summer regulations would begin to apply,” NCHSAA spokesman James Alverson said in an email. “It is not meant to supersede any order by the governor, state or local governing body, nor any school or LEA restrictions.”

Watauga had to cancel its spring workouts earlier in May. Habich said the effect of that will be felt more at Watauga, which graduated several key members of the 2019 team that went 13-2, won the Northwestern Conference championship, and reached the finals of the 3-AA Western Regionals.

The Pioneers have been forced to work out on their own without hands-on instruction from the Watauga coaching staff.

“We’re still in Phase 1 of the reopening,” Habich said. “Gyms aren’t open until Phase 2, so from the school’s standpoint, we’re not really sure when that’s going to come. The NCHSAA didn’t make any rules themselves. They just are relying on what state and local governments do.”

Habich said there are still a lot of unknowns during the summer. There are two “dead periods” in July and there is no guarantee fall sports will begin in the beginning of August.

“You hear colleges say that when they return, they will need six weeks to prepare their team for competition,” Habich said. “But they’re dealing with 18- to 24-year-olds. A lot of those colleges had spring ball and have been in an organized team environment all offseason. For us in high school, we don’t have that.”

Habich said he’s curious how much time prep football players will be allowed to prepare for an upcoming season.

“We’re dealing with 14-to 17-year-olds that don’t have the experience the college players have,” Habich said. “We’ll need to have the proper time to work with our teams before we play competition.”

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