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Updated: GHSA to ease restrictions again as 3 states delay start of football season

ajc.com

GHSA executive director Robin Hines said Wednesday he planned to ease restrictions on Georgia sports teams again Monday when they return from the June 28-July 4 dead week.

The decision comes as three states, including Tennessee, announced this week they were delaying the starts to their football seasons amid rising COVID-19 cases.

Hines met Wednesday afternoon with his sports-medicine advisory council, who endorsed moving forward with the next step in summer conditioning.

Beginning Monday, sports teams can engage in more competitive one-on-one drills. For football, that means intra-squad 7-on-7 competitions.

“Our sports-medicine group feels that intensity can pick up,’’ Hines said. “We’re where we thought we’d be. Now quarterbacks can throw to wide receivers. Pitchers can throw to batters with a catcher. Volleyball players will be able to set and spike. We’re just taking baby steps, trying to strive for normalcy, while keeping as healthy as we can.’’

Hines indicated last week that June restrictions would remain in place another week, so the decision was somewhat surprising.

Rising COVID-19 cases have caused several states to become more cautious.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association announced Tuesday that its football and girls soccer seasons would be delayed after Gov. Bill Lee extended a state of emergency related to the pandemic through Aug. 29. Lee’s original order essentially banned contact sports, which left the TSSAA with little choice.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also extended an emergency order this week, though only through Aug. 11 and not as restrictive as Tennessee’s. Georgia’s extended ban prevented the GHSA from eliminating the limit of 50 people in workout groups, Hines said.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced Tuesday that it would delay fall sports after Gov. Doug Ducey pushed back the start of the school year to Aug. 17. The move could cancel or postpone three weeks of football games.

New Jersey on Monday pushed back the start of football practice one week to Aug. 10, and the first week's games likely will be postponed or canceled, according to MyCentralNJ.com. New Jersey's regular season now is scheduled to begin in September.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that she has asked the Michigan High School Association to consider postponing fall sports such as football that don't allow adequate social distancing.

The Florida High School Sports Association's fall-sports task force Wednesday voted to recommend delaying fall football practice until Aug. 10.

Mississippi's athletic association met Tuesday and considered flipping the fall and sports seasons, which would move football and basketball to spring, but made no decision. Texas and other states also have shown an openness to moving football to spring.

In Georgia, sports teams have remained on track for a normal start to the fall seasons in August. They were allowed to begin conditioning June 8, when the GHSA lifted its sports ban.

Those restrictions have been eased each week. Workout groups, originally limited to 20 people, can now be 50. Monday’s change will bring more competitive activities but with limited contact (i.e., no football tackling). Football pads and helmets aren’t yet allowed.

Hines also said that tryouts for cheerleading, softball and volleyball may begin next week.

Summer workouts are voluntary. Mandatory practices are scheduled for July 27 for football and Aug. 1 for other fall sports.

‘’I continue to be optimistic about our season,’’ Hines said. “Nothing has happened until this point that has made us feel like we needed to adjust our calendar at all. I say that with the caveat that it could change tomorrow. All guidance is fluid. We’ll continue to look at the data and see where it takes us.’’

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