Fall FHSAA sports? Area coaches weigh in

By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught

In my opinion, we will have high school sports on some level this fall.

But it remains anyone’s guess about what that means for contact sports like volleyball and football.

This Monday, July 20, is an important date for high school sports in the Sunshine State. The Florida High School Athletic Association has a ‘mandatory’ Board of Directors meeting via Zoom on Monday at 5 p.m.

The FHSAA’s task force recommended moving the start of fall practices to August 10.

For now, the first practice date remains as Monday, July 27, with preseason games just two weeks after that.

However, we are in unprecedented times and things change so rapidly.

Earlier this week the NJCAA announced they were moving most of their fall junior college sports, including football and volleyball, to the spring.

New Mexico and Virginia have moved their fall high school sports to the spring. South Carolina is considering it.

And there are some places in Florida, like Tallahassee, which are considering a shutdown of fall sports.

You have to wonder if these will be considered/discussed during Monday’s meeting.

Several area coaches expressed their hopes and concerns about their sport.

“I think most of the state could see football in some form this fall if the FHSAA doesn’t choose a one size fits all solution,” said St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) football coach Scott McDaniel. “Some areas of the state, where the virus is more prevalent, might need to be delayed or perhaps even not be able to play, but in those areas where the virus isn’t as active we might see teams playing close to a full schedule with precautions.”

The Wolves are scheduled to open up the regular season on Friday, August 21, at home against Bronson.

“I believe we will have football, but it may look different than what we are accustomed to,” said Bradford (Starke) football coach Brian Tomlinson, who enters his fourth season as head coach of the Tornadoes with three consecutive playoff appearances.

Eastside (Gainesville) Athletic Director Philip Crutchfield said he is “50/50 on if there will be a delayed start or full go.”

Union County (Lake Butler) volleyball coach Jordan Windham has a message for the FHSAA. She believes her sport can play in the fall.

If there are no fall sports, it can have a negative impact on high school sports.

“My main concern is if the FHSAA doesn’t play, all the travel ball, club ball, and pay for play sports will be there,” said Newberry volleyball coach Hank Rone. “Kids will go somewhere and play. The kids that have the means to afford it.”

Rone noted several sports have been playing in tournaments all over the state since Florida opened.

“AAU volleyball started this week in the Orlando Convention Center and they are coming from all over,” he said.

While some feel there is too much of a risk to play, one thing that almost all can agree upon is that high school sports are vital.

“High school athletics are important for kids, schools, and communities,” said McDaniel. “We must do everything we can to make it happen, if we can do it safely.”

That will be among the biggest questions. Can schools make it safe for athletes to play?

“High School sports means so much more to a lot of communities in the state,” added Rone. “We have to put in stuff to be as safe as we can. I totally get that.”

The FHSAA has a tough decision on Monday.

Based on the fact that it’s a ‘mandatory meeting,’ I would expect an announcment about the fate of fall prep sports in Florida.