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Start of W.Va. Winter Sports Moved to March 1

WHEELING — West Virginia governor Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that the beginning of West Virginia high school sports will once again be pushed back to March 1.

The start date for winter practices involving basketball, swimming and wrestling had already been postponed until Jan. 11.

“We are going to have to go back to the drawing board,” WVSSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said upon hearing the governor’s announcement. According to Dolan, however, there are no immediate plans to cancel the winter season and shift focus totally to spring. “There will probably be some overlap (between winter and spring).”

While sports are getting moved back nearly two months, all in-person learning for elementary and middle schools will return on Jan. 19 and high schools will continue to use the color-coded map and will allow in-person learning for schools in the “orange” advisory, as well.

“I’m extremely disappointed with that announcement,” Cameron boys basketball coach Tom Hart said.

“I feel bad for our kids and basically everybody around the state who were looking forward to finally getting started on Jan. 11 and now another delay is really disheartening.

“We’re over 10 months into this and these decisions on whether kids are in the classroom or whether they are participating in extracurricular activities needs to be done on a local level, similar to what they are doing in Ohio. It seems to be working pretty well over there. That’s really the route I was hoping we would see but they are trying to make these decisions out of Charleston and they are trying to base it off of a map. Nobody knows what’s going on at the local level better than our local officials, whether it be our local health officials or local school officials. It’s really disheartening that they will not let local officials have a say on what’s going on and what’s best for our kids.”

John Marshall girls coach Brock Melko is simply heartbroken for the kids on his team and all athletes around the state who are left wondering if they will have a season.

“I can’t imagine being a high school kid right now,” Melko said. “If I put myself in my 17-year old shoes I would be depressed. That was my life and I’m sure all of these kids are in the same boat. They look forward to this their whole life. They are playing varsity sports and it keeps getting taken away from them. I just feel kind of helpless.”

There are still plenty of questions left unanswered regarding the season length of both winter and spring sports and the possibility of the two seasons colliding, forcing kids to either play two sports at once or choose one over the other.

“I have not heard anything but I’m guessing they’ll push it back,” Hart said of the start of the spring sports season. “I hope they don’t expect kids to choose or cross over. Are we going to get a full season in? Will the number of games be reduced? Is there going to be a postseason? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Mel Stephens, coach of the Wheeling Central boys basketball team, which lost an opportunity to play in last year’s state tournament due to COVID, and all other coaches will also be scrambling to re-make the schedule for a third time.

“I’m a little disappointed that they moved it back again but at least we get to play. That’s the most important thing is the kids get to play this year. If that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do,” Stephens said. “We had to redo our schedule once already and now we’re probably going to lose out. We were going to play Shadyside, St. Clairsville, Dover and East Liverpool. We’re probably going to lose those games because they might totally be done with their season by the time we get started.”

Ohio schools will also be forced to make changes to fill voids left by West Virginia schools on their schedules.

“ADs and coaches who work really hard not only on the West Virginia side but in Ohio really worked with us to keep our games on the schedule,” Hart said. “We had actually made some adjustments on our’s where we were playing a lot of different teams for the first time. We were looking at playing some bigger schools and now we basically have to start all over again.

“That puts (Ohio schools) in a bad situation because they’ll have to look for games. It’s a shame because we’ve been playing Bridgeport and Beallsville for years and we were playing River for the first time this year and now that’s off.”

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