UIL announces adjusted fall sports calendar

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By Scott Akanewich

Liberty Hill’s wait to begin play as a Class 5A school will have to wait a bit longer as the UIL has announced all Class 5A and 6A schools across the state will begin fall sports practice on Sept. 7 – about a month later than usual in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ironically, Class 1A to 4A schools will begin on Aug. 3, which was when the Panthers would’ve gotten the green light if they hadn’t been moved up in classification entering the 2020-21 school year.

The UIL earlier announced students who enroll in distance learning — as opposed to physically attending class – will remain eligible to participate in sports.

Liberty Hill athletic director and head football coach Jeff Walker expressed relief when word was handed down.

“Being a sports guy, it’s exciting to be talking about it again,” said Walker. “Now, our kids are going to have the chance to compete – that was my first thought.”

Head volleyball coach Gretchen Peterson expressed similar sentiments.

“First and foremost, I’m so thankful we’re going to have a season,” she said. “So, let’s take some time to celebrate the positive in that.”

Peterson added although things won’t be the same, the bright side is she and her team will be able to coach and play the game they love – although there remain unknowns heading into what is sure to be an unprecedented and unique campaign.

“Of course our season is going to look different — it’s not what we’re used to or what we wanted exactly, but that’s life right now, nothing is what we’re used to,” she said. “But, this is just the time we’re currently in, so we make the most of it.”

In addition to football and volleyball, the Panthers’ cross country and tennis squads will also begin practice on Sept. 7.

Despite the fact all teams will begin practice on the same day, competition will start at different times.

Cross country and tennis can begin competing on Sept. 14, while volleyball and football can open their seasons on Sept. 14 and Sept. 24, respectively.

Peterson is confident those involved are capable of doing what is necessary to make the entire endeavor successful, she said.

“There are plenty of things we’re still processing through and figuring out what that will look like in action,” said Peterson.”But, now we have a plan and we can start moving towards that — this won’t be a forever fix — this is just a year — we can do this.”

Both football and volleyball summer camps will go on as scheduled, as football will be held on July 27-29 and volleyball on July 28-30. More information and registration forms can be found on the school’s website, www.libertyhill.txed.net.

Peterson also acknowledged those who were charged with making the call to proceed and also realizes there are bound to be bumps in the road moving forward, remaining optimistic despite question marks, but in the end is simply grateful the opportunity has been presented.

“I don’t envy the UIL or any administration teams on this — they have very tough decisions to make and someone will always be upset,” she said. “You can’t make everyone happy and nothing is going to be 100 percent perfect. The unknowns are tricky and scary, but we’ll make it work — that’s what teachers and coaches have always done. We will make this work, too – I’m just glad we have a season and school year to do so.”

Walker traded his athletic director hat for one of the coaching variety in gauging his emotions concerning the announcement.

“As coaches, we know now we’re going to play,” he said. “We’re no longer in limbo not knowing. Having that carrot to dangle in front of our athletes is super-important to me and now we have a plan, which is good.”    

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