Joe Rybak, the athletics director at Calvary Day, said the coronavirus pandemic whisked away aspects of a normal life for students and athletes while running its course the past several months.
And a decision early this week was welcomed, after COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the spring sports season in late April. Rybak favored a return for high school sports in the fall, even if that meant abridged schedules — fewer games, but some resemblance of normalcy at his private school.
A lurch in that direction occurred today when the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association pushed back the start of fall sports practices to Aug. 10 with competition permitted the week of Aug. 31. The decision to postpone the league's schedule, initially set to begin July 27 with practices, came during a video conference with school athletics directors across the state.
Of course, that skeleton for a fall season is contingent upon Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement on whether North Carolina will move into the final step of its reopening plan for the state or remain in Phase Two, which is set to expire Aug. 7. The NCISAA has yet to recommend safety guidelines — health screenings, sport-specific modifications, spectator attendance, locker rooms, masks and social distancing, as the association noted in a news release — but those will be addressed Aug. 3.
"I would like to see the kids get an opportunity to play, while being safe at the same time," Rybak said. "... I just think kids not playing — I mean, we're taking so much away from them of their normal life. I think, as adults, we have a way of coping because we're more mature and have been through life a little bit.
"But these kids sometimes don't."
Rybak said that if Calvary Day had football, a return would've been a concern. NCISAA member schools in Forsyth County — including Forsyth Country Day and Salem Baptist Christian — don't play it. Football, which the NCISAA labeled high-risk, is postponed until at least Sept. 4 with plans to discuss options and dates next week.
Drew Glupker, the athletics director at Salem Baptist, described it as a "comfort" that his school didn't need to accommodate football. Area member schools will focus on a kickstart to low-risk sports — cross country, girls golf and tennis — in addition to moderate-risk activities, such as field hockey, soccer and volleyball.
Meanwhile, Ignacio Alvarado, the head coach of the Vikings' boys soccer program, said he's conducted workouts with roughly six players at an indoor facility off Sprague Street in Winston-Salem. That training includes conditioning — ab workouts, running and cone drills for footwork.
"I think it's all fair, if it's for the health of every player and everyone involved," said Alvarado, who also coached the girls soccer team whose season was cut short after a lone game in the spring, of the NCISAA's decision. "I just want to make sure that everything's done properly and in good timing."
Doug Esleeck, who was named the athletics director at Forsyth Country Day in June, said he wasn't concerned that safety guidelines haven't been released by the NCISAA. However, he noted the window between the start of practices and games seemed sufficient for proper implementation of those protocols.
"We'll have a month to figure out what are best practices to implement those things to keep our kids safe," Esleeck said. "... I think the timeline they laid out, everybody's going to our best to be ready for that if the governor progresses our state to Phase Three of reopening."