Delay after delay after delay.­

This seems to be the rule, more than the exception, when it comes to how area high school sports schedules have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winter sports, which typically begin in early December, were pushed back to Jan. 11 on Nov. 13. Now comes yet another setback.

The winter sports season will not begin until at least March 1, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

“We’ve got a lot of time left in the school year to be able to play and have the sports,” Justice told Metro News.

The announcement all but wipes out the previously-reported schedules on the WVSSAC website. Practices had been set to resume on Jan. 11, with actual competitions to start about two weeks later.

Instead, athletic directors across the Mountain State must now go back and do yet another update of the winter sports schedules. It should come as little surprise to anyone this might happen.

It’s not clear if the March 1 date means the actual start of competition or practices. Winter sports include basketball, wrestling and swimming.

Bernie Dolan, WVSSAC’s executive director, said he hopes, moving forward, the organization which overseas high school athletes in the state will receive further clarification from the state capital in Charleston.

“Obviously, that makes a big difference in about two-and-a-half weeks of practices and game time available,” Dolan said in an interview with MetroNews’ Talkline program on Thursday. He also said his staff will consult with coaches and athletic directors this week to put together a revised calendar.

Dolan remains hopeful teams can be allowed some type of conditioning window prior to the start of official pre-season practices.

Coaches at Jefferson and Washington High Schools were just as anxious to get started as the athletes, but just when it looked as if they might, at long last, end their disappointments, another significant blow to their hopes happened.

While the latest update of when winter sports begin across the state has brought much disappointment throughout the high school sports communities, Justice remains firm in his belief the state is headed in the right direction when it comes to getting athletes back in the gymnasiums and athletic fields. All of this, however, is based on how the rollout of the new vaccines progresses.

“Just think of the numbers we will have vaccinated at that time,” he said. “Absolutely, we are very hopeful that this thing is going to turn and we can absolutely go to where we can have the sports indoors. And we can do that starting March 1.”

Until then, the gyms at Jefferson and Washington High Schools most likely will remain empty, another sign of just how much COVID-19 has affected life as we know it.

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