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Back on track: High school sports set for full return

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GEORGIA — High school sports in Georgia are set to begin with a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy during the 2021-22 season.

The Georgia High School Association, the top governing body for prep sports in the state, is set to eliminate the protocols it put in place ahead of and during the 2020-21 season.

GHSA Director of Media Relations Steve Figueroa told the Herald, “Basically, it’s business as usual for the 2021-22 school year.”

Marquee events, out-of-state games highlight local 2021 football slate

GHSA Associate Director Don Corr said in a June email to member schools the organization plans to lift restrictions on summer workouts and its COVID-19 protocols for fall, winter and spring sports for the upcoming season.

Perhaps the most significant change will be the lifting of attendance limits at GHSA events. Other safety measures, including seating on benches, pre-game procedures, social distancing protocols and in-game alterations to play will also be repealed.

Though the GHSA is lifting its restrictions, it does allow for some local control.

“The GHSA will respect local school/systems COVID guidance during regular season contest/activities,” Corr’s email said. “Sport-specific considerations and rule modifications will be evaluated and adjusted as needed by each sport administrator. Our goal continues to be to provide sports and activities for our students with safety being the top priority.”

The GHSA made some sweeping changes to the local high school sports landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with delaying the start date of some fall sports, including football, last year, the GHSA enacted safety measures to counter the virus’ impact. For football, that included an altered pre-game coin toss, the extension of the area players were allowed on the sidelines and a ban on post-game handshakes.

In other sports, volleyball huddles were prohibited, measures were put in place to limit the number of hands that contacted the ball in softball, cross-country meets used staggered starts and tip-offs were eliminated to begin basketball games.

With a return to normalcy set, the high school season will be back in full force in early next month. Aug. 2 is first date for practices for football, competitive cheer, fast-pitch softball, volleyball and cross-country.

The lifting of the GHSA’s restrictions will be the first sense of full normalcy in high school sports since the winter sports season of the 2019-20 school year.

Less than two weeks after the state crowned its basketball state champions in March 2020, including the Chattahoochee and St. Francis boys teams, Georgia entered a state of emergency in response to the pandemic gaining a foothold locally.

That resulted in the eventual cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season, which includes baseball, lacrosse, golf, soccer and other sports.

The GHSA forged ahead with the 2020-21 season but with several alterations to timelines, including some fall sports being played later in the school year, and a rash of safety protocols.

Reach Joe Parker at 770-847-8334. Follow him on Twitter @joeparkerga.

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