While most GHSA schools around the state of Georgia are set to return to football practice next week in a limited capacity for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak shut down sports in early March, Rockdale County schools will remain idle for the time being.
That decision was made on Monday by the Rockdale County school district to cancel all athletic activities for the month of June, catching many of the area’s coaches and administration off guard.
An original restart date for high school athletics in Georgia was set for this upcoming Monday, June 8, a date voted on by the GHSA last month. Rockdale County will now have to wait until July 6 to resume practices.
“I was not happy,” Heritage defensive coordinator Eddie Snell said when he heard the news. “We had a plan and had worked it out to where each coach will have a certain amount of kids and a time frame in which they can come in. We were all grouped up and ready to go.”
Rockdale County Athletic Director Chad Suddeth was one of the first to hear the decision brought down by the district and announced the news on Monday via social media platforms.
Suddeth said he too is disappointed with the nearly one-month pushback.
“We are ready to get going,” Suddeth said. “We’ve been working for a while making plans and putting safety guidelines in place.
“It’s frustrating that the rest of the state will have a one-month head start. Not only do our coaches and athletes want to get back out on the field, but considering all that is going on in our society right now, we need to get our coaches back in front of our kids to teach, talk, mentor, guide, support and console.”
Salem head coach Jarrett Laws released a team statement on Twitter Wednesday explaining the decision and said they have been in constant communication with their administrative team, as well as the GHSA and RCPS AD Kechia Rowles.
“We had just had a team meeting on Sunday via Zoom where we had sat and created a matrix that we were going to work around to get the kids back on campus,” Laws said. “At this point, you can’t necessarily solidify anything because it changes from day to day. We’re just trying to be vigilant and patiently wait on an opportunity to get back together.”
With the Seminoles set to switch classifications this season, a move Laws is anticipating will be very difficult considering the level of talent his team will face on a week-to-week basis, getting back on the practice field in a timely manner becomes that much more important.
“For us, I think it’s a little more critical because with us switching classifications and playing arguably the toughest schedule in Class 3A, it becomes that much more critical that our kids get a chance to get together and get prepped up in what might be the hardest season in school history.”
While the district’s decision of pushing the restart date back a month appears to be final on paper, Snell hopes they will reconsider and let the county start practicing sooner rather than later.
“My message to them would be to not put Rockdale County at a disadvantage when it comes to being on the same playing field as some of the other surrounding counties,” Snell said. “One of the other things I would say is that they have to include the football coaches and other coaches in general to come up with a plan.”
Disappointing nonetheless, Laws said that when his team is allowed to return to practice, they will be ready to go.
“The safety of the kids comes first,” Laws said. “Whatever sacrifices that we have to make to make sure that when we do start back up that it’s done safely, appropriately and in a way that significant work can be done, then I’m all for waiting.”