Sports Have Started Again At Least For Some

The fall sports season has started. Well, at least for some. The University Interscholastic League announced a tiered 2020-2021 athletic calendar on July 21 that would allow some schools to start fall practices on-time on Aug. 3 while delaying others until Sept. 7.

As part of the plan, Class 1A-4A fall sports programs like Argyle started volleyball games Aug. 10. Cross Country and team tennis started on the 17th. The Eagles’ football team plays its season opener on the 27th. Meanwhile, Class 5A and 6A schools can’t start practicing until Sept. 7, with games starting in the weeks after. This new start date for the UIL’s two highest classifications is roughly five weeks later than normal and is in direct response to COVID-19 concerns. For Murray Media’s coverage area, the 5A/6A schools affected are Guyer, Lake Dallas, Marcus, Flower Mound, Hebron, The Colony, and Justin Northwest.

“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in a press release. “While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread.”

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There haven’t been any games at the high school level since the UIL suspended practices and games in mid-March as concerns over the coronavirus were running rampant. The UIL allowed schools to begin strength and conditioning and sports-specific training in early June, but questions continued to linger over whether or not athletics would resume in the fall. That all changed with the latest announcement, though the UIL made it very clear that this is a fluid process and that plenty can change if there is another spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.

“At some point in time, we’ve got to set dates, and we’ve got to say, ‘These are the dates. We’re playing,’” Guyer football coach Rodney Webb told the Dallas Morning News. “It was going to be impossible to make it ideal for every school and every school district around the state.” Webb was spot-on. The new plan changes the entire makeup of the typical athletic calendar. Not only have teams been forced to alter their game schedules to fit the new plan, but playoffs and state championship games also have significant date changes.

The state title games for 1A-4A in volleyball and football remain Nov. 18-21 and Dec. 18-19, respectively. But the larger school playoffs begin in early December for football — as opposed to November. The title games will be in January. Meanwhile, the volleyball state tournament for 5A and 6A schools will be Dec. 11-12 rather than before Thanksgiving.

As you attend games, you may notice fewer spectators. Part of the UIL’s plan was also to limit spectators to a 50% maximum capacity for each stadium or gym to allow for social distancing to continue. Everyone must wear face masks.

A calendar provided by the UIL is included with this article.