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August 2020 - Vol. 1, No. 8

Prep sports returns...sort of

hIt's been more than four months since the last games were played on any high school athletic field or in any gym in Moore County.

North Moore, Pinecrest, and Union Pines were able to start conditioning and abbreviated practices this month, all under the guidance from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association COVID-19 protocols.

Delayed more than once in part to extended Phase II mandates coming from Raleigh, practices were supposed to start Aug. 3. Hurricane Isaias said, "Nope! I have things to do first!" No-contact, no-ball practices began instead Aug. 5.

Then, another kick in the shorts came on Aug. 6. Raleigh leadership extended Phase II for five more weeks, extending the start of fall sports contests beyond the previously-thought Sept. 1 start date into November.

As if that wasn't enough, the NCHSAA released what schedules would like in the 2020-21 school. To the surprise of many, the NCHSAA moved the football season to February.

I suppose we should not be surprised. After all, it is 2020!

In the meantime, forward this email to someone hopeful that actual games will eventually be played.

Union Pines abbreviated fall conditioning

It's been a long and lonely summer for many of the Union Pines High School student-athletes, but that came to an end when a brief glimmer of hope lit a previously darkened tunnel full of many questions and not many answers.

Aug. 5, the Vikings were able to hit the practice fields and courts in football, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and cheerleading, all while maintaining NCHSAA and state-mandated social distance, wearing masks, and other COVID-19 protocols.

In many instances, you could see players and coaches alike smiling with their eyes while shielded behind their masks.

I covered the second day of workouts for Viking football and Lady Vikings volleyball for The Pilot.

Unfortunately, those practices were short-lived as the state once again put the kibosh on practices until Nov. 4. Many astute observers noted this seemed a little strange since it was the day after the Nov. 3 General Election.

I will not wade into that conversation, but I will say you can see more images from the Aug. 6 workouts at www.timothyhale.com.

War Horse Event Series - third round

August saw the third round of the War Horse Event Series at Carolina Horse Park and I was once again on assignment for ZUMA Press.

It was not as hot temperature-wise as it was in July but the equestrian action was just as hot.

See more images at https://www.timothyhale.com/p1012126857.
As an added bonus, here is a short video from the August WHES.

Parting Shots:

Seasons in the balance

Student-athletes across Moore County are wondering if their seasons will happen and what they will look like. (File image credit:  © 2015 Timothy Hale/Special to The Pilot).
I started writing about recent events regarding North Carolina high school sports. But it quickly became a doctoral thesis; or the makings of an awful mystery novel.

After a few days of rewriting, more in-depth editing, and further rewrites, I ditched the entire article.

 
What you see now is version 5.0, and even now, I'm not sure it gets to the heart of the issue.

From this outsider's point of view, it appears the NCHSAA staff believe they are making the best decisions while sandwiched between a seemingly ever-shrinking space between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

It has to be further disheartening for coaches, players, and fans seeing other states with programs seemingly operating as they should with traditional fall sports in place while adhering to state-mandated COVID-19 protocols.

What is even more disturbing are those politicizing the debate, trying to align postponement decisions to the Nov. 3 general election.

For once, can people stop trying to turn every little thing into a political firestorm? Most of the student-athletes could care less about politics. All they want to do is go to school and play their respective sport or sports (for those multi-sport student-athletes.)

After all, why do you think the #WeWantToPlay hashtag took off as it did earlier in the month?
The NCHSAA released a very different look at sports for the 2020-21 season (SOURCE:  NCHSAA)
What about fans, bands, and student sections?
The one narrative that I haven't heard much about is what about fans? For that matter, bands and students sections that usually fill stands, especially on crisp fall nights during football season.

Many schools depend on those fall gates that come with football season. Without those fans and the often zealous student sections, where will the revenue come from to carry the other sports? 

As for the bands, can you imagine not hearing a school fight song after a big touchdown, or listening to the school alma mater sung by students, players, and alumni after a game? Will they play band music at appropriate times on a pre-recorded track over the public address system. Let us hope not!

Colleges are already looking at the same dilemma. UNC announced Aug. 28 that "all six of its fall sports would be played without fans at least through September. Last week, NC State announced suspended season tickets. If fans are allowed at football games, it will most likely be with reduced capacity at Carter-Finley Stadium.

The other factor is crowd noise. Sometimes a game is made or broken on how significant the home team crowd noise is in rattling the visiting team.

We should hope that high schools across the state are planning for fans, bands, and student sections when football rolls around in February.

Otherwise, it's going to be eerily quiet under those "Friday Night Lights."
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Opinions expressed in this newsletter are purely my own and are not a reflection of any of the companies, corporations, or entities listed herein.
Copyright © 2020 Timothy Hale Photography.
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