The Lancaster-Lebanon League voted Wednesday to push back the beginning of fall practices for most sports to Sept. 4.
The change is designed to give school districts time to prepare to conduct school and athletics safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The overriding concern was, ‘Let’s get school started the right way and then start athletics,’ ’’ said Ron Kennedy, the league's executive director.
Under the proposal, which passed by a 19-6 vote, three weeks of preseason practices will begin Sept. 4 in cross country, field hockey, girls tennis, girls volleyball and boys and girls soccer. Then the games will begin— football is targeting a Sept. 18 opening night — although exact schedules and starting dates are still to be determined.
The exception to the shuffling is golf. Its season will begin as originally scheduled Aug. 17.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s prepandemic calendar had called for a heat acclimatization week for football beginning Aug. 10. The first practice date for all fall sports would have been Aug. 17.
Under that calendar, the first non-golf competition date was to be Aug. 24, for girls tennis, followed by Aug. 28 for football and Sept. 4 for the remaining fall sports (cross country, field hockey, girls volleyball and soccer).
Now, in football, the heat acclimatization week will start Aug. 31. Football teams will be able to practice in pads starting Saturday, Sept. 5. The first playing date for football will be Sept. 18, which would have been the last date for nonleague games on the original schedule.
All L-L schools started holding voluntary workouts for athletes in July. Those workouts may continue until practices begin.
Each L-L school’s vote was cast Wednesday by either a principal or athletic director, but reflected the wishes of each school’s district superintendent.
“They’ve already made the decision and told us how they want us to vote,’’ league board of directors president and Lebanon High School principal Bill Giovino said.
Votes against the proposal came from Cedar Crest, Elco, Ephrata, Hempfield, Lancaster Catholic and Northern Lebanon.
“I just don’t see the logic in it,’’ Ephrata High School principal Scott Galen said. “Why are we taking more away from kids? I think it’s better to have (athletics) in before school starts than after. I just couldn’t disagree with this more.’’
Wednesday’s vote amounts to a pledge from each L-L member that it will not begin sports activities before Sept. 4. Beyond that, all decisions about beginning the school year and extracurricular activities will ultimately be made by each individual school district’s board and administration.
The athletic directors now get the job of managing myriad details and logistics, a task that will begin Thursday, when the league AD’s Association meets.