A step forward has been taken toward the return of high school sports, after all.
The South Carolina High School League on Thursday sent out plans for a Phase 1.5, to begin Aug. 3, to superintendents, principals and athletic directors.
The memo and guidelines were distributed just a day after the league's appellate panel spent more than two hours in a meeting before deciding to postpone a vote on the appeal of Lexington County's plan to rearrange the prep sports calendar.
With no decision made on that plan, the SCHSL's plan – with fall sports practices beginning Aug. 17 – remained in place.
Now there's a little more guidance as teams – in parts of the state where it's permitted, anyway – have remained stuck in the strength-and-conditioning-only Phase 1.
"The goal is to allow the athletes, coaches, and staff to begin and/or continue in-person training and group workouts while maintaining a safe environment," said SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton in a memo to school officials. "It is imperative that if schools choose to begin implementing Phase 1.5, they do so under the guidelines set forth."
The guidelines contain many of the elements of Phase 1 but are more relaxed in some cases. For example, team competition is still prohibited but properly cleaned and sanitized balls and sports equipment may be used for the first time this summer.
Social distancing and face-covering guidelines still apply – student-athletes must continue to wear those coverings while not actively participating, and coaches and staff members must wear them at all times while on site. The use of locker rooms and offices are prohibited.
Maximum group sizes will be allowed to increase from 10 people (athletes, coaches and staff) per facility to 16 for fall sports – 10 are allowed for winter and/or spring sports.
Spotters may be used in the weight room, but "must stand at the end of the bar only and wear a face covering or mask."
As part of the process toward a Phase 1.5, the SCHSL will conduct an online meeting with member schools next Thursday to discuss in more detail the updated guidelines.
"Sports will most certainly be a tremendous catalyst for our communities to return to a much-welcomed sense of normalcy," Singleton said in the memo. "As always, we must continue to be purpose driven in implementing these guidelines to return to play. If we each continue to do our part during this phase, we improve our chances of returning to play this fall sports season and beyond."