Coaches Corner: Aside from delayed football, high school fall sports a go

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Northwest Whitfield High School head volleyball coach Kelsey Ikerd talks to her players last season.

Coaches Corner is a series of stories about a variety of issues that coaches must deal with on and off the playing surface. Today, how do local coaches feel about the return of fall sports amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Preparing to play a season they were unsure would even happen has been a tough arrangement for the Northwest Whitfield High School volleyball team, head coach Kelsey Ikerd said.

With the Georgia High School Association's announcement Monday that fall sports, with the exception of football, will proceed as previously scheduled during the COVID-19 outbreak, that burden lifted just a little.

"It almost felt like we're walking on a frozen lake, and we didn't know whether it was going to crack or not," Ikerd said of her team's summer preparations for the uncertain fall season. "Now, we've gotten the clarity to know that we can ice skate and do all kinds of tricks on this lake."

Ikerd's sport of volleyball is set to proceed towards a start in August, as are other GHSA fall sports, such as softball, cross country, cheerleading and flag football.

Football season will be delayed by two weeks and will now start Sept. 4, the GHSA announced. That's the only sign of delay for Georgia high school sports seasons so far.

"I kind of expected it to be all sports under one decision, and we would have been OK with that, because we know it's hard for the people that have to make these decisions," said Alannah Long, the head softball coach at Murray County High School. "I was super excited for the girls that we were getting to start on time and have a semi-regular season."

"They listened, and I think they did the best they could as far as trying to let everyone have a season," Karen Galyon, Dalton High School's cross country coach, said of the GHSA decision.

For cross country, Galyon said, it's a little easier to keep participants further apart than in contact sports like football.

"With cross country in particular, you have to stay somewhat distant anyway, or you'll trip somebody up," Galyon joked.

Galyon said adjustments may be made to cross country schedules to decrease the number of participants in each race.

Long, who is heading into her first season as the head coach at Murray County, is glad to see some sense of certainty finally return for her team.

"It has been such an unknown," Long said. "It's just kind of challenging to prepare for the season when you don't really know what is happening. It's helped our mindset."

One unknown left is whether families, friends and fans will be allowed at games and matches.

According to information released by the GHSA, further guidance on spectator attendance is to come, with local health agencies helping to make recommendations.

"My first role is a teacher, and as a teacher your job is to take care of your students," Ikerd said. "That will always be more important than winning games."

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