Sunday, 02 August 2020 19:24

The importance of August 1, high school sports' New Year's Day

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Sports editor Kyle Pillar shares his thoughts on the importance of August 1 and the start of a new high school sports school year. Sports editor Kyle Pillar shares his thoughts on the importance of August 1 and the start of a new high school sports school year.

Summer vacation is a time for educators, student-athletes, coaches and administrators to wind down and re-energize after nine months of school, instruction, games and final exams.

And (normally) come August 1, it’s full throttle and back to the grind — at least for coaches and athletes at Richmond Senior High School.

But this year’s August 1, the first official day of fall sports as declared by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, came and went without much action. That’s if you don’t count the numerous tweets by athletes and coaches who expressed their feelings on the lost day.

Saturday would have been my fourth “August 1” as the ROSports editor, and it’s a day I’ve come to learn and love just as much as anyone else who participates in it. It’s one of the most-happening days on campus all school year. 

To us, the ones who live, breathe, support and become immersed in Richmond athletics, Saturday was a day of solitude. What’s normally our “New Year’s Day” was a blip on the radar of an otherwise actionless summer schedule.

August 1 not only signifies the official start of six fall sports programs at Richmond, but it also marks the start of another nine months of Raider and Lady Raider athletics. That includes basketball, wrestling, bowling and swimming in the winter, as well as six more programs in the spring, including baseball, softball and girls’ soccer.

The first day of the eighth month of the year also brings new life and a fresh start for sports in our county. Gone are the celebrated seniors of the past year, and in come the rising upperclassmen looking to carry on the tradition.

And luckily for many programs at Richmond, like Bryan Till’s football team, Chris Larsen’s soccer teams, Ashleigh Larsen’s volleyball team, Rob Ransom’s baseball team or Mike Way’s softball team, the new athletic year is a stepping stone to build off of the tremendous success from the year prior.

Not many schools, or programs, in our area can say that their expectations don’t change drastically from year to year. Many of Richmond’s teams have cemented themselves into a position of notoriety and success, proving season after season to be powerhouses in the state and the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

And all of that hype, excitement and wanted pressure starts on August 1. But here we sit waiting, watching the days slip by and uncertainty loom.

I understand the circumstances just as much as the next person, maybe even a little more given my position as Richmond County’s sports editor. Yes, the coronavirus was unexpected and is unprecedented. Yes, the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, fans and community come first. I know all that and wouldn’t suggest otherwise.

As we enter the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States (in terms of it impacting interscholastic sports), the light at the end of the tunnel is now September 1. 

The NCHSAA has set that day as the new August 1, and while that’s reassuring to some degree, it’s not without its repercussions. I’ve looked at the safety guidelines put in place by the governing body, and while strenuous and may take some time to get used to, they’ll work.

If, and that’s a big “if” at this juncture, Richmond athletes begin practicing by the start of September, there will already be several weeks worth of practices, scrimmages and games lost. The Raider football team will have lost two non-conference games, and likely one or two more because of practice and conditioning regulations.

The boys’ soccer and volleyball teams, which usually play over 20 regular-season matches and begin around the middle of August, will have lost roughly a quarter of their respective games. 

The co-ed cross country team, as well as the girls’ golf and tennis programs, will see practice time reduced and the starts of their seasons possibly pushed.

It’s hard to digest the loss of sports in a community that supports all of Richmond’s programs. I’ve never lived in a place that shows its high school sports community the kind of love and respect Richmond County shows its Raiders and Lady Raiders.

It’s also hard to fathom the long-term impact of not having sports — the number of student-athletes who will be missing out on scholarship opportunities, college visits and trying to plan for life after high school.

This whole situation is unfair, unwanted and holds a lot more questions than answers. But what I do see are programs around the state slowly starting to get back in the swing of a normal routine, albeit later than normal.

Several school districts like Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Schools, Brunswick County Schools, and even Pinecrest High School, are beginning workouts on Monday, August 3. There are others, and with it, comes the hope that athletics will resume sooner rather than later in Richmond County.

I don’t like that September 1 has become our new August 1, but if waiting an extra month means we get to experience the excitement of Richmond athletics this fall, winter and spring in some capacity, I’ll wait.

I know Raider Nation is sitting, waiting and watching, too. But like I’ve said before, we can do this Richmond County.

Kyle Pillar is the three-time award-winning sports editor for the Richmond Observer. Read his column “Sunday Night Writes” every Sunday as he recalls some of his favorite moments on and off the field of his coverage of Richmond Senior High School athletics.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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