While Horry County Schools may or may not be debating a district-wide sports stoppage, the 21 athletic trainers across the nine high schools have made their voices heard.
On Tuesday morning, those men and women co-signed and sent a letter to HCS Chief Officer for Student Services Velna Allen and Director of Health and Safety Services Tammy Trulove asking for all sports practices and games to be postponed effective immediately.
“Given the recent rise in [COVID-19] cases in Horry County and, more importantly the increasing number of athletic teams which have entered quarantine in the past two weeks, we, the athletic trainers of Horry County Schools, recommend the pause of all athletic activities — including practices, games and conditioning — until conditions are more favorable,” stated the letter, which was provided to MyHorryNews.com Tuesday afternoon. “While we recognize the implications of this recommendation, we believe it is in the best interest of our athletes, staff and community to temporarily pause all activities related to athletics until we are able to better mitigate the risk.”
The letter goes on to cite the first semester exam schedule, slated for January, and how further COVID-19 quarantines would likely prevent preparation and execution of those.
It did not put a specific return date in writing.
As of Tuesday morning, the district had not had any formal discussion about a sports hiatus, according to HCS spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier.
Why the athletic trainers placed the onus on HCS was not surprising. The South Carolina High School League has left most of the decisions for athletics up to individual districts since the summer, and it has stuck to its amended timelines in nearly every circumstance. Outside of the Class 2A football championship game, the fall sports remained on schedule.
That was, however, before COVID-19 numbers started to spike again.
Several districts from around the state have already shut down their athletics programs for the next several weeks. On Monday, Darlington County Schools joined that list, closing up sports for Lamar, Darlington and Hartsville high schools. The latter two share spots in Region VI-4A with Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, meaning there will automatically be a back-log of basketball and wrestling region contests squeezed into a tighter window.
Last week, North Myrtle Beach Athletics Director Joe Quigley told MyHorryNews.com that he believed the region was already going to need to request an extension of the regular season from the South Carolina High School League, and that was before the Darlington closures.
There were seven varsity basketball programs in Horry County in a quarantine last week, and another was placed in quarantine Tuesday. Additionally, there was a football quarantine at North Myrtle Beach and at least two junior varsity basketball quarantines. Wrestling competitions started this week, and as many as four teams in the county are currently under quarantine or have already been through one.
Also on the horizon is the Beach Ball Classic and its sister tournament, the United Bank Holiday Invitational, two events that would be impacted by a district stoppage.
Girls squads Carolina Forest, Socastee and St. James are among the 32-team UBHI, which is set to begin on Saturday. Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Socastee are scheduled to play in the Beach Ball Classic, which starts Dec. 26. The Conway, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach girls have already withdrawn after their quarantine period crossed over into the UBHI schedule.
"If they shut down the boys, I’ve got other boys coming in to play,” tournament director John Rhodes said. “You don’t want to lose the Horry County teams. But the thing about the boys tournament this year, with other states shutting down, I was able to bring more local teams in to play. … If they can’t play, I’ll just bring someone else in or cut it down to a 12-team division.”
Rhodes said he is planning for approximately 1,800 fans per game at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for the main tournament.