In a newsletter last Monday Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Superintendent Jason Kamras said the school system will not play high school or middle school winter sports this year.
“Athletics are important for many reasons: they motivate and inspire, improve student health, and can even lead to college scholarships. I am deeply sensitive to this,” Kamras wrote in his daily RPS direct newsletter. “At the same time, given our decision to go 100% virtual for the first semester, and given rapidly rising infection rates, we will unfortunately not be fielding any teams this winter.”
Kamras continued: “I recognize this will be disappointing to many students and families. But I believe it’s the only option we have if we are to fully honor our commitment to safeguarding the health and safety of our students, families, and staff. Thank you for your understanding.”
The decision comes just weeks after Governor Ralph Northam eased statewide COVID-19 restrictions for recreational sports through an amended executive order, clearing the way for the Virginia High School Sports (VHSL) league to bring back sports starting in December.
Kamras’ decision will impact many different schools within the system, including John Marshall high school, which is known for having one of the best boys basketball teams in the Commonwealth.
Just last year, in one of the last high school sports events before the spring COVID shutdown, John Marshall won the Class 2 state title and was supposed to return multiple players with collegiate offers like John Marshall’s Roosevelt Wheeler, one of the top basketball recruits in the entire country.
The Virginia Star reached out to John Marshall boys basketball coach Ty White for comment on this story, but did not get a response by press time.
If RPS and other school systems throughout the state officially decide to cancel winter sports, the decision would impact hundreds of high school students across multiple sports who rely on athletics as a way to be recruited by colleges and earn a degree or play their sport professionally.
Many high school athletes also depend on getting offered scholarships to play college sports because they cannot afford to attend school without one.
The kids most affected would not be students like Wheeler, but the athletes who may not have garnered the eyes of college scouts yet or are just beginning their high school sports careers and would need a season to prove that they can excel at the next level.
Instead, those students could lose a quarter of their opportunities.
The decision of whether or not to play winter sports is entirely up to the individual school system. In Virginia, many schools are operating through different types of schedules with some still 100 percent virtual like RPS, while others are employing a hybrid model of virtual and in-person learning or are completely back in the classroom.
Throughout the Commonwealth school systems have made varying decisions on playing winter sports as some have decided to move forward like Henrico County and others have already cancelled their plans like Arlington City.
Under the VHSL’s current schedule, winter sports – including basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, indoor track and field and swimming – would play a shortened season from December 14th through February 20th.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “John Marshall Basketball” by John Marshall Jayem Basketball / @CARESJARON.