ORANGEBURG, S.C. — In a press release sent out by the Orangeburg County School District, officials said they made a "tough call" to begin fall sports.
Officials say the administration and Board of Trustees had a strong desire to delay athletic conditioning and practice for student athletes amid continued coronavirus concerns.
“The health and safety of our student athletes, their adult coaches, and community must come before all else,” said Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster.
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The South Carolina High School League (SCHSL), which governs high school sports in the state, made the decision to officially begin the fall sports seasons for volleyball and cross country on Monday, August 24. (Girls’ tennis officially began August 17.)
“With athletics officially beginning throughout the state on Monday and many student athletes hopeful for college scholarships that may result from this season, we had a really tough call to make,” Foster continued.
Following a late Thursday evening virtual meeting with Orangeburg’s athletic directors, coaches, principals, and in consultation with district and school administrators, the District made the decision to allow student athletes and coaches who were ready to return to play to do so under very stringent health and safety guidelines.
Teams in schools and districts throughout the state have been conditioning with student athletes throughout the summer as part of the South Carolina High School League’s phased-in approach.
“I would not have had the opportunity to pursue my education beyond high school without my athletic scholarship, and I know that there are student athletes also in that situation,” Foster explained. “I simply can’t deny a young person the opportunity that an athletic scholarship may provide.”
Orangeburg was one of the last districts in the state to make the decision to allow athletic teams to begin conditioning and practice.
Any sport that has not officially started their season will be participating in a phased-in approach with conditioning only being approved at this time.
The South Carolina High School League plans to officially begin the football season on September 8.
“We understand that there will likely be parents and student athletes who are not ready to begin practice,” Heyward Jean, Student Services Director who oversees athletics for OCSD commented. “Anyone who does not feel safe will be respected in their decision. The student athlete will be permitted to try out, practice and condition at any point in the season when they are comfortable in doing so."