CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has provided updated guidance with regard to in-season tryouts, practices and events as the fall sports regular season activities resumed on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Much of the latest update relates to the number of participants allowed at off-season skill development sessions as opposed to in-season tryouts and practices.
For off-season skills development sessions, indoor events will continue the previously mandated limit of 25 people, a total that includes players, coaches and support staff. However, the NCHSAA stated that an increase in the number of participants would be allowed for outdoor work, from the previous 50 people to 100 people, a total that includes coaches and support staff. Spectators still are not allowed to attend off-season skill development sessions.
The limits afford a variable when it comes to in-season tryouts and practices. During tryouts and practices for an in-season sport according to the NCHSAA calendar, players, coaches and support staff do not count toward the capacity limits, allowing larger-rostered sports such as football the ability to participate as full squads. Spectators are still not allowed at regular-season tryouts and practices, however.
During in-season trouts and practices, NCHSAA guidance notes that teams should consider, but are not mandated, to utilize pods and small-group work, drills that allow athletes to wear cloth face coverings and to social distance, and that coaches limit inter-squad scrimmage time.
As related to games, participating teams and athletes before or after the current event may remain in the facility, but they must wear cloth face coverings and maintain six feet of social distancing, according to the NCHSAA. Circumstances would apply to when a varsity team is awaiting the conclusion of a junior varsity game or match before the varsity match begins, such as with volleyball, as well as when a junior varsity team is waiting for transportation back to school during a road varsity event once their event is completed.
Related to transportation, guidance noted that cloth face coverings must be worn, transportation vehicles should be sanitized regularly, and that no more than one passenger may be seated per school bus seat, with the exception that members of the same household may share a seat. In addition, no more than two students may be seated in a non-bus vehicle unless all students in the vehicle are members of the same household.
Spectator guidelines for when regular-season contests begin on Nov. 16 were also outlined by the NCHSAA. Outdoor spectators at venues for events are still limited to 100 individuals or 30 percent of the facility’s fire capacity, whichever is smaller. The guidelines note that spectators must remain seated, and that players, support staff coaches, workers and entertainers do not count toward the capacity limits.
For indoor courts or rooms holding events, capacity is limited to 25 spectators per venue, while for indoor and outdoor pools, the capacity at the venue is limited to 50 percent of listed capacity, with athletes, coaches, workers and staff counting toward the capacity limit.
According to Watauga High School Athletics, the volleyball team will open its season away at St. Stephens on Monday, Nov. 16, at 4:30 p.m.
The boys and girls cross-country teams open their season the same day, hosting Freedom on the Pioneers' home course. A couple of events on the cross-country schedule are virtual events, including a virtual 3200 on Nov. 24 and a virtual 5K on Dec. 17.
Under NCHSAA guidelines, swim teams can begin practice Nov. 23, with competition beginning Dec. 7. The WHS Athletics schedule does not yet have any dates on the schedule for the WHS swim team.
Anna Oakes contributed reporting to this article.