‘Let them play!’: Parents, student-athletes push for immediate return of fall sports

‘Let them play!’: Parents, student-athletes push for immediate return of fall sports

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - “Let them play” was the rallying cry for dozens of parents and student-athletes at the State Capitol Monday demanding the immediate return of high school fall sports.

In July, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) announced all fall sports and activities would be delayed until mid-February.

However, many of the people who rallied in Richmond Thursday afternoon cited the number of other states currently playing fall sports.

According to MaxPreps, a national high school sports database, 33 states are currently in their fall season; Virginia is not one of them.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Steven Hugney, a quarterback for Robinson High School in Fairfax County. “I’ve been playing football since I was five years old.”

Hugney has been looking forward to his senior football season, and even more excited about the looks he’d get from college recruiters.

“I was talking to a couple Division 1 schools in the spring and they said they wanted to see me play in my senior year, so they could get more film on me,” Hugney said. “Now there’s no film to have because there’s no fall season.”

While the VHSL has moved the fall sports season to mid-February, high school sports advocates said it could jeopardize these athletes' futures.

“What we’re seeing from a college recruiting standpoint is the young people who have already received college offers are getting more offers because college football coaches can’t get out and recruit, high school football players can’t be seen; everything is at a standstill,” said Andy Hilton, CEO and Founder of Recruit757.

Hilton runs recruitment football camps every year for high school athletes. He claims the way the sports schedule is now will create an uneven playing field for these athletes.

“It’s so much bigger than football,” Hilton added. “This is about providing hope for young people. There are so many opportunities being missed right now because sports aren’t being played.”

It’s why he and dozens of others gathered at the Virginia State Capitol, demanding changes.

“Green is go, red is stop, green is go and we want to go!” said rally organizer Holly Wiles.

Wiles has been to several sports tournaments this summer for her kids' travel teams and said there are ways of making it safe.

“There were 25 basketball courts with teams on them, and hundreds of parents,” she said. “There are no outbreaks associated with it. People can be careful.”

“For my travel soccer team we wear masks when walking into the facility, get our temperatures taken, and stay six feet apart at all times,” said Cami Wiles, a tri-sport athlete in Loudon County. “During training, we can take our mask off but obviously still following the guidelines of staying six feet apart.”

Cami Wiles is also a tri-sport athlete and is concerned about the impacts of other athletes trying to play all their sports.

“There’s not one sport that’s more important than the other, so everyone needs to have the opportunity to play their sport,” Wiles said.

Meanwhile, the VHSL released a statement regarding Monday’s rally.

It reads:

"We fully understand and support the passion of high school sports from our school communities, parents, and students. From day one, we have been committed to getting our students participating in activities safely and responsibly. There has been a tremendous amount of input and cooperation from principals, superintendents, activity directors, coaches, and members of various communities.

"The VHSL and its member schools have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a plan for our students to participate in VHSL sponsored athletics and activities. Our Executive Committee will meet this Thursday to approve and adopt our “Championships + 1” schedule for the FY 2021 Athletic and Academic Activities season. This schedule provides every VHSL sponsored activity a season during the FY2021 year.

“VHSL staff and Executive Committee will continue to work in cooperation the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to develop a list of recommended guidelines for school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities.”

Holly Wiles said she plans to contact the VHSL regarding this matter potentially hold more rallies in the future.

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