The KHSAA Board of Control voted Thursday afternoon to eliminate the annual summer dead period for 2020 and to allow coaches to meet with socially distanced groups of 10 athletes or fewer beginning June 1.
The motion to eliminate the 2020 summer dead period passed, 13-5, in the only vote of Thursday’s monthly board meeting that wasn’t unanimous.
Any team activity during what would have been that time — June 25-July 9 — must be voluntary.
Prior to the vote, discussion centered on the themes of the ongoing pandemic-caused dead period removing the need for a typical dead period, and of how coaches and athletes will interpret the term “voluntary.”
Four board members expressed concern that students might misinterpret the use of the term “voluntary.” Estill County Schools superintendent Jeff Saylor said that term can be fraught with misconception as a test of an athlete’s commitment, rather than being interpreted literally.
Woodford County Schools superintendent Scott Hawkins countered that the normal point of a dead period — to give students a break for at least two weeks from sports — isn’t an issue in 2020.
“I don’t think we need to keep a dead period now, based on the fact that we’ve basically had a dead period since March 16,” Hawkins said.
Rowan County Schools instructional supervisor Lucy Moore, the lone member of the 18-member board from northeastern Kentucky, was among the five “no” votes “because of the people that I have talked to,” she said during the vote.
Reached for comment Friday, Moore called it “the most difficult vote I've made during my time on the board.” She said the people she spoke of while casting her vote are “administrators that I had talked with who believed that many families had already made plans, and if there is no dead period, an athlete might be forced to choose whether to go with family or stay for their team.”
“I was really torn, because I could see both sides of the issue,” Moore said. “Actually the strange thing is that (board members’) reasoning for voting the way we did was probably the same — we just looked at what might be best for our student-athletes a little differently. For instance, the dead period was originally put into place to make sure that athletes had a break. We all agreed that they have certainly had a break, but what kind of a break was it? Were they really able to enjoy their time off, or was it a stressful time not knowing how long they would be denied access to the outside world? Do they need to go ahead and come back when they can to be with coaches, or do they need to be able to actually go on a vacation with their family to relax without the stress of confinement?”
Moore added that she believed each board member diligently tried to do what was best for students when casting votes.
“I think that the board made a good decision on a difficult topic,” Moore said, “and I will support that decision completely.”
The board also voted to begin allowing coaches to meet with players in groups of 10 or fewer on June 1 — not practice nor conditioning, yet — and to begin preparing facilities and equipment for workouts later in June.
“Let’s get these kids back with their coaches sooner rather than later,” KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said. “Our high school coaches in many cases know more about what’s going on in a kid’s home life than anybody in the building … And this way, we can get them back daily involved. And I think that point’s gotta happen, but I also think there’s gotta be some legitimate preparation time.”
Concurred Campbellsville Independent Schools superintendent Kirby Smith: “We need to get some of those kids back connected with their coaches. We’re not talking about trying to find an advantage to win a district, we’re talking about conversations, talking to kids: ‘How you doing, what’s going on?’”
The board also voted that practice can begin in “low-touch sports” and workouts in “high-touch sports” can occur with social distancing restrictions from June 15-28 and that competition can begin in “low-touch sports” June 29, with “high-touch sports” at that time allowed to do “specialized drill training.” Those measures comply with guidelines issued by Gov. Andy Beshear last week.
The board passed a resolution signifying it will follow all such guidance from the state, so that the KHSAA’s membership and the public “know that despite their desires to get going a little bit earlier than youth sports, we can’t do that,” Tackett said. “We don’t have that choice as a state actor, and therefore anything we start will start with the 15th.”
“Low-touch” youth sports include baseball, softball, T-ball, track and field, cross country, tennis, golf, gymnastics, swimming and diving, bowling, dance and ballet and archery, per Beshear’s guidelines.
“High-touch” sports are football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, volleyball, hockey, wrestling and karate/martial arts.
The board passed a resolution that the KHSAA would not interfere with the requirement for an annual physical for each athlete and a policy philosophical statement that it will not entertain an additional year of eligibility for athletes specifically due to COVID-19.
The KHSAA said in a tweet Thursday evening that its staff “will review policies and procedures based off (Thursday’s) action and issue updated guidelines on Friday.”
Tackett also reiterated the KHSAA’s desire for patience from its membership and the public.
“Frankly, if decisions had to be made today for some of these critical forks in the road, the decisions probably would not be what people want them to be,” Tackett said. “Having a little bit more time lets us consider what goes on. The strategy that’s been adopted here, as you know, is not to be first and not to be last, but to be somewhere in the middle where you can observe what other states are doing, see what works, see what doesn’t, and move forward. And that seems to be working in a large area.”
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