rule changes

In this photo from last baseball season, GMC Prep Rusty Courson converses with then-senior Ryan Barsby during a break in a home game for the Bulldogs. Coaches this year will be expected to maintain social distance from their players in and out of the dugout. 

The pandemic that ended spring 2020 high school sports seasons prematurely is still having an effect nearly a full year later. 

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) recently released lists of “special considerations” for schools to take into account with the 2021 spring sports session approaching. Similar to other changes that were done in the fall and are currently being observed in winter sports basketball and wrestling, competition remains the same between the lines, but certain aspects will look different to fans and observers. 

GHSA schools may begin full baseball practice on Monday, and the first day of the 2021 regular season is set for Feb. 15. Once play begins, schools will be asked to social distance within their dugouts. Teams can set up designated areas just outside to serve as a sort of auxiliary dugout to allow for more spacing. Also, the time-honored baseball tradition of chewing sunflower seeds has been outlawed all in the name of trying to cut down on bodily fluids being spread. Pitchers are not allowed to lick their fingers, touch their hands to their mouth, or blow into their hands prior to throwing a pitch. If a pitcher does any of those things, umpires have been told to call a dead ball and remove the ball from play so it may be sanitized. When a ball goes out of play, it will be returned to the host dugout so it can be sanitized before returning to the field as long as it’s still in good condition. 

Face masks in baseball are recommended, but have not been made mandatory by GHSA. Clear face shields are permitted as long as they are integrated into a fielding mask, catching helmet or batting helmet. Standalone shields are not allowed. 

There will be no postgame handshakes once games are completed.

Out on the soccer field, teams could actually begin practicing Monday, and regular season play is currently set to kick off Feb. 1. Since the sport is played on a much larger field than baseball and players spend less time in close proximity, the GHSA has given fewer special considerations. Similar to baseball, cloth face coverings are allowed, but not mandatory. Pregame conference attendees will be limited to head coaches, a single team captain, and the head official. Opposing coaches and captains will not shake hands prior to a match, and teams will not do so after games either. Rather than lining up side-by-side on the field during pregame introductions, the GHSA asks that players instead run out to their respective positions.

For both sports, the host school will be expected to sanitize dugouts and dressing rooms prior to any contest.

For a complete list of special rules considerations, visit each sport’s respective page on the GHSA website, www.ghsa.net. 

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