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Questions swirl around fall sports

To play or not to play, that is the question.
The discussion began when Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, sent letters to the leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana School Boards Association, calling for the suspension of athletic events at K-12 public schools during the fall semester as a safety precaution.
“I’m asking them to step up and take action to protect our children,” he said in a statement.
“This suspension should include all activities of any kind that would include student in-person participation in a group setting, including conditioning, practice and team meetings,” Fields wrote.
“I do not believe that conditioning activities can be conducted safely, much less drills, practice and games. There is simply too much close proximity involved to safely conduct these activities.”
On Tuesday, Sandy Holloway, president of BESE, said BESE has authority to make recommendations, but the decision on whether high schools participate in fall sports is up to the LHSAA and individual school districts.
Then on Wednesday, LHSAA commissioner Eddie Bonine sent out his response on the issue.
“Now, more than ever, we are reminded that our communities need high school sports. Interscholastic competition supports the physical, emotional and mental well-being of student-athletes across Louisiana,” he wrote.
“The LHSAA is fully committed to the safe return of high school athletics this fall,” his memo stated.
“We encourage member schools to follow LHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee Guidelines to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and administrators.
“Reopening high school sports depends on all of us working together.”
Eunice High interim head football coach Andre Vige said there are plenty of questions yet to be answered about how to return to the football field.
“I disagree with Sen. Fields,” he said. “I want them to play some football and I think we need to get back to some kind of normalcy, in my opinion.”
Vige said while the state is still under Phase Two, he hopes the next phase will happen soon.
“We are taking it week by week,” Vige said. “We are preparing as if we will start on time.
“I heard several options including cutting the season from 10 to seven games,” he said. “Or keep the 10 games and cut the scrimmage and jamboree games.
“At this point, I just want to have a season,” Vige said. “If we don’t have a scrimmage or jamboree, so be it, but we really would like to keep the 10 game regular season.”
Vige said the Bobcats are still set to face Iota in the annual jamboree.
Vige said the athletes are eager to see the games begin.
“Our kids are competitors and they want to play,” Vige said. “This is a great group and they work hard.”
If the regular season starts as scheduled, Eunice High will host Northwest on Sept. 4.
If the games return with limited or no fans in the stands, Vige said they will make the adjustments.
“I know we would want to play in front of our fans as the kids respond to their support.
“Not having people in the stands and still having to pay the officials you know you are going to take a loss,” Vige said. “It will affect your program.
“But the coaches of our other sports do a good job of raising funds.”
Vige said his staff is following all the guidelines for summer workouts including taking each player’s temperature and practing social distancing.
St. Edmund athletic director James Shiver said he is hopeful that decisions are made soon so they will know what adjustments have to be made concerning the football season.
“It is for the kids,” he said. “I’m OK with just playing district games and the playoffs – but I don’t want them to take anything away from our seniors.
“The virus cheated our athletes in the spring,” he said. “I hope this doesn’t happen again in the fall.”
Shiver said they really need to play the annual Joe Nagata Memorial jamboree.
“Financially we would love to have every game we are supposed to have,” he said.
“We need fans in the stands, he said. “If we don’t make money off of football, how we do the other sports that they do?”
Shiver said there is a wait-and-see for the fall but they are doing what they can to get ready.
“We have to get past Phase Three to play football,” he said. “That could mean a delay of the season until September.
“If that happens, then we will miss out on some games.”
St. Edmund is set to open the regular season at home against Vinton on Sept. 4.
Shiver said one proposal that the LHSAA might consider is if only district games are played then all Division IV teams advance to the playoffs instead of the present 16-team bracket.
The Blue Jay coach said the summer weight room workouts have help make his players stronger.
“When the decision is made about the start of the season,” he said. “Then we will decide when a break will happen before we start preseason practices.”

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