WEST JEFFERSON — Ashe County High School sports are scheduled to make a return Nov. 17 after a seven-month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While sports are returning, anything can happen as the pandemic continues, and Athletic Director David Koontz said nothing is certain.

“Depending on how the how the first couple of sports could go, it could impact the rest,” Koontz said. He said there is optimism about the upcoming seasons, with the hope that everything runs smoothly and students can get the seasons they hope for.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has had to overhaul the sports calendar, moving them around to fit into new slots. According to Koontz, the schedules are still being finalized for many sports, but most if not all will be conference-only.

“We’re starting small, with only volleyball, cross country and we’re hoping to finalize swimming,” Koontz said. “Some games this year will have to be played over the Christmas break, and it’s been important to have breaks based on exams.”

The amended schedule has shrunk the number of contests, with baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, track and field and wrestling all being limited to 14 events, and football being limited to seven games. The limits do not include playoffs or conference tournaments.

The NCHSAA’s sports manual is currently a living document, being constantly ready to update, should state guidelines change. As of Oct. 26, the guidelines have limits of 100 spectators at parks, fields and outdoor courts and a limit of 25 spectators in rooms or gyms. Players, coaches and support staff are not subject to the occupancy requirements.

Athletes must also go through screening before competing, with daily checks for temperature and signs or symptoms of COVID-19. The manual also notes that “due to the possibility of recurrent outbreaks in the coming months, administrators must be prepared for periodic school closures and possibility of some teams having to isolate for two or more weeks while in-season.”

The NCHSAA has also noted that if a team is unable to compete due to COVID-19 related circumstances, a postponement of the contest is available, however if a rescheduling cannot happen the contest will be designated a “no contest.”

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