While football is the main topic of discussion right now in terms of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, fall sports have also been affected.
Girls soccer, for example, had been set to start practice on Monday. Then came Executive Order No. 50 and the subsequent memo from the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association halting the start of all contact sports.
While cross country, golf and volleyball can start as usual, girls soccer is considered a contact sport and can’t start practice until Aug. 30. The executive order prohibiting contact sports expires on Aug. 29.
“We are in limbo at this point, I don’t know what is going to happen next,” Central Girls Coach Travis Tuggle said. “Right now, there are just a lot of variables, a lot of unknowns.”
Central has not had tryouts yet for its girls soccer because school let out in March and has not been in session since due to coronavirus precautions. He had planned to have some fitness testing starting Monday, but that is now on hold.
Tuggle is asking that current players and students interested in playing email him at email@example.com and provide him with their name, cellphone number and either their own or their parents’ email address. That way he can keep them up to date on what is happening.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. I know the plan is to open school, but there are so many unknowns and so much unpredictability about this that it’s hard to say,” Tuggle said.
Tuggle added he understands that football is the main focus right now because it is the sport that makes the most money. Most high schools depend on football, and in some cases basketball, to fund the rest of the athletic department.
But while everyone wants to see football and all the fall sports be able to start, Tuggle said it’s important not to play just to play.
“To be honest with you, while there is a lot of talk about sports and the TSSAA, it’s the least of our concerns right now, sports is,” Tuggle said. “Starting school back in a safe manner that’s safe for students and safe for teachers should be, and hopefully is, the No. 1 priority. I am less concerned about soccer than I am about school because first and foremost I am a teacher.”
The coronavirus statistics in terms of positive tests and hospitalizations have increased for the worse dramatically in most places across the country. Until the virus is under control, Tuggle doesn’t see how sports can be a priority.
“Looking at the trending and if the number of positive tests were on a downward trend and the number of hospitalizations were on a downward trend and the number of deaths were on a downward trend in the state of Tennessee I wouldn’t be as concerned,” Tuggle said. “But they are going in the opposite direction right now. We are not going in the right direction right now to be concerned about playing any kind of sports.”
But once soccer does come back — if it does — there is no telling what it will look like. As is the case in football, soccer will have to decide how many games will be on the schedule, who makes the playoffs and how many rounds of the playoffs.
There has been some mention of simply pushing the season back a bit and playing all the games as scheduled. Tuggle currently has 16 contests.
He cautioned, however, that pushing the soccer season back too far will run into basketball. While that may not affect larger schools that much, it will hurt smaller schools.
“A little school like Central High School in Englewood, Tennessee, we have some basketball players (on the soccer team). I really don’t want them to have to make a decision (about which sport to play). I don’t think it’s fair to either program. I don’t want to play in state tournament in mid or late November. I would rather condense the season than to extend the season out and take players out of basketball practice and possibly even games.”
But before the schedule and the playoffs can be discussed the state and then country have to get the coronavirus under control.
“I am hopeful that we can have school safely and sports safely, but I don’t really want to risk people’s health just to play a game,” Tuggle said.