What’s next for High School sports?


Bo Dalrymple and Katie Mohr, Managing Editor and Business Manager

Nothing compares to a Friday night under the lights of Deaton Thompson Stadium. The crowd is cheering and the student section bursts with energy. The players put their best efforts out on the field to represent their school and teammates well. All their hard work leads up to these moments. Win or lose, there is no better way to kick off the weekend than watching a high school football game. 

The thought of high school without sports seems absurd. The idea that an athlete would not be able to go out and represent their school in a sport where they hold so much talent and potential is heartbreaking. That troubling idea has become a reality for every student athlete across the nation.  

With the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March, many state high school athletic associations were forced to cancel spring sports. There was hope that by the end of summer the virus would fade and highschool sports would resume. But in North Carolina, as well as many other states, those start times kept getting pushed back until the state ultimately decided to change the schedule altogether. 

On August 12th, theNorth Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) came out with an entirely new calendar, pushing sports all the way back to November, meanwhile shifting certain sports to different seasons, in months they typically do not play in. 

The calendar includes somewhat arbitrary dates upon first glance, spanning from the November 4th start date, through June 11th. Sports such as swimming and diving were moved up in the usual order of sports to November 23rd; Football was delayed till February 8th, women’s soccer to March 1st, and baseball to April 12th, among others. 

Despite the changes, the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) school district has allowed traditional fall sports teams to start pre-season practice. For RJ Reynolds High School those sports include soccer, football, cross country, and virtual volleyball workouts. Precautions such as no equipment, temperature checks, masks, outside practices only and social distancing have been put in place to keep players as safe as possible.

Reynolds athletic director, Brad Fisher, pointed out the most important reason for why the district has chosen to start conditioning. 

There have been rogue groups putting on events like basketball tournaments and 7on7 football events and soccer games,” Fisher said. “It’s dangerous, as most of these groups are ‘for profit’ and do not seem concerned about the safety of the kids. So the district has allowed schools to bring kids together so it can be done in a safe way.”

WSFCS is focused on keeping kids as safe as possible. It is clear that sports are wanted throughout the community, so they devised a plan to give kids a chance to be active while staying safe. This mindset is different from many other organizations around the county.

“I’m just so happy to see familiar faces, even if it’s under a mask,” Fisher says about the difficult season.

One group that is being affected a lot by this change is senior athletes. They have spent their entire high school athletic career working towards the most important season: senior year. This is the time where athletes lead the pack and have the chance to offer guidance and support to their younger teammates. Some are offered captain positions that stem from their dedication and leadership shown in previous years. Other outstanding players are scouted by colleges with hopes that they will be able to continue playing the sport they love on an even bigger stage.

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 these players’ final seasons are being cut short and shifted around. Although it is hard, senior and captain of the men’s soccer team, Owen Peterson, has a positive outlook on his senior season.

“I mean it’s a tough situation but putting myself in the best shape possible heading into the season will help me make the most out of my last season with Reynolds,” Peterson said.

The men’s soccer team has been doing pre-season workouts that follow guidelines put in place by WSFCS. This has changed up their normal schedule, but Peterson thinks there are benefits to their new training that could aid to future success.

“Practice has moved from technical and getting on the ball to completely strength and conditioning,” Peterson said. “We are going to be in very good shape that’s for sure… [it] will help the team in the long run.”

Nothing about this year is normal. The peace of mind that comes with having a routine is hard to find these days. Everyone is taking things one day at a time.

“One thing I have learned is to roll with the punches,” Peterson said. “You never know what’s coming with the team or the season, but if you put your head down and work no matter what comes, you’ll be ready.”

While the newly released calendar poses a challenge for many athletes to adjust to new schedules and weather subsequently, the senior leaders at Reynolds are up to the task to make the most of their seasons. 

“Football is football, either you’re ready or not this 2021 [season],” senior football player Jolen Thompson said. “The RJR Demon football team is ready to dominate and will be playing at an elite level no matter the circumstances…”

Despite the uncertainty of the upcoming seasons, some seniors are just grateful that they get the chance to represent Reynolds one last time.

“As a senior it is sad that [my] last season with the team is shortened,” senior Kate Quadland, girls cross country captain said. “I was never sure if we would actually have a season, so now that we do, I am really happy.” 

Everyone is hoping for sports no matter what it will look like. Players in the meantime are still continuing to work and put forth their best effort so that when the time comes, they will be more than ready to represent their school. 

“It just gives me more time to focus and get prepared for college and a great football season,” Thompson said. “I will continue to get stronger, faster, and better up until then.”

The best that the student population can do is be safe and follow guidelines in hopes that we will have the chance to support the Demons once again.