The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken many people and things that we love away from us. If we were to compile all of this into a list of the things that we have lost because of COVID-19, the list would be endless. On November 30, 2020, the winter sports season in Henrico County was added to that list.
This past Monday, Freeman Student Activities Director Suzanne Criswell relayed a message from Andy Jenks via Schoology informing student-athletes that winter sports would not be played this year in Henrico County. In the message, HCPS Chief of Communications Andy Jenks briefly explained the reason for the decision and noted that, although Henrico County is aware that this will most likely be disappointing to student-athletes, they always prioritize health and safety. Regarding the overall response they have received to the news, Henrico County Superintendent Amy Cashwell wrote, “Overall, the reaction has understandably been one of disappointment and heartbreak at the loss of the season.”
It all started earlier this year in March when students began virtual learning, shortly followed by the cancellation of last year’s spring sports season. Going into this year, there was much hope and effort going into making sports happen amid these difficult times. “We wanted [this season] to happen, we worked really hard to make [this season] happen,” said Ms. Criswell. “We’re certainly not as devastated as the athletes and the parents, but we’re very, very sad because we worked really hard to try to make it happen.”
Before the cancellation of the season, the plan for winter sports included many protocols and changes to make those sports safer in the event that the season was played. “A month ago, the limit on people was 250…every person in the gym counted,” said Ms. Criswell. “That left us, what we figured out to be, maybe 60 tickets for each team, for parents only.” According to Ms. Criswell, after the limit was lowered to 25 (excluding players and some workers, but not cheerleaders and other workers), there were not going to be any tickets sold.
On top of limiting spectators, other protocols were going to be implemented in the event of a season. “Winter sports would have looked different,” replied John Carroll, Henrico County’s Student Activities Specialist. “Locker rooms would not have been available…the rules of each sport would have been changed to limit the amount of unnecessary person-to-person contact,” Mr. Carroll said.
The ultimate decision to cancel winter sports was definitely a difficult one, and it required a lot of consideration from those involved. The decision to cancel the winter sports season was made after “the HCPS division leadership team was advised of significant concerns regarding safety and the viability of maintaining the VHSL winter athletic schedule,” stated Dr. Cashwell.
“It’s ok to feel the way you’re feeling, we’re disappointed too. This is not a decision that anyone wants to make but it needs to be made in the best interest of the health and safety of everyone involved,” said Andy Jenks. “We would encourage our student-athletes to stay in close contact with their coaches and their directors of student activities for the support that they might need now, and in the future, and in next season and beyond,” said Mr. Jenks.
To all of the seniors who are missing out on their senior season of athletics, Mr. Jenks said, “in a pandemic, things are different, and it’s a situation that nobody asked for and nobody deserves…we will continue to seek ways to make this senior year something special for our students who deserve nothing less.”
As for discussions regarding fall or spring sports, Mr. Jenks said, “we’ll take another look at [fall sports] in early 2021, and no immediate change or word about the traditional spring sports.”