High School Football Kicks Off Across The State Amid Major COVID Related Challenges
The Executive Director of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), Dr. Robin Hines, had a dream Monday night.
It involved his high school football coach, Jim Hughes.
“I couldn’t find all my equipment,” Dr. Hines said. “It was a nightmare… if you know Coach Hughes. He was a great guy and a great coach.”
The excitement in Dr. Hines voice must means that the high school football season is ready to kick off in one of the most competitive states in the country.
Hines shared the story in a pre-season kickoff conference call Tuesday with the Georgia Association of Broadcasters. The main topic Hines discussed was how the GHSA and its over-400 member schools have dealt with COVID-19 within their school environments and how they are preparing for Wednesday's Corky Kell Kickoff Classic and the other games that are part of this opening week of football.
Scheduling has been a major challenge across the state with some schools delaying games and others cancelling their seasons all together. Statesboro High was among the latest school added to that list Tuesday as the Blue Devils cancelled their season-opener against Wayne County Friday night because of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on campus and in the community. Mill Creek, slated to play in the Corky Kell Classic on Friday, announced it was pulling out Tuesday after a positive COVID-19 test on the team.
Dr. Hines and the GHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Council (SMAC) have had constant conversations about the state of play all spring and summer and Hines says their guidelines for a return were more restrictive than required to have fall sports return to campuses. But Hines feels athletics are an invaluable part of the high school experience and he was determined to have sports take place this fall.
“The bottom line is the Georgia High School Association is going to provide a framework of opportunities for young people,” Hines said. “We believe, and I have believed it my whole career, that there are things we can learn through sports and activities that you’re not going to learn other than there. You need to learn to be a good leader. You need to learn to be a good follower. You need to learn to lose gracefully and win humbly and how to be a good employee… all these life lessons are important.”
The diversity of the state and how the pandemic has affected each and every county is something Hines has kept in mind the entire time while trying to bring a football season to its 2020 opening week.
“Early on,” he said, “that was probably the biggest struggle that we had of trying to get us to (start).”
Nine schools are canceling their 2020 seasons altogether and almost 60 more are not starting at the same time as their GHSA counterparts. Hines admits that the GHSA is still trying to learn as much as they can in an environment where the information changes fairly regularly. The regular season has been moved back two weeks and the state championships are now going to be played after Christmas.
Hines and the GHSA feel their measured approach has been a big part of even having a 2020 season and getting to kickoff this week.
“I was cautiously optimistic through it all and, as we move forward, things are getting better,” Hines said. “I just think that way back when, if you start making hard decisions, I think you’re doing the wrong thing. I don’t know that the Big 10 should have canceled when they did. There was time to give it a chance to work out. That’s kind of what we wanted to do. We wanted to give it a chance.”
Those chances start with the Corky Kell games Wednesday at Cherokee High School and West Forsyth High School.