High school sports to return?

Members of the Del Rio High Queens softball team have a short conference in the pitcher’s circle prior to the start of an inning during a game played at the Queens Softball Field in March. The game between Del Rio and Laredo LBJ was the last UIL contest to be held in Del Rio prior to the suspension and eventual cancellation of UIL activities for the 2019-20 season, but Monday’s announcement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott regarding the return of sports in Texas could soon lead to a resumption of UIL activities this summer.

While school sports remain on the bench, the latest announcement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott has many people anxious for the return of organized sports.

Monday afternoon, Abbott announced a timeline for the next phase of openings in the state of Texas as part of a planned recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Abbott’s plan, rodeos, equestrian events, bowling alleys and skating rinks will be allowed to open and resume beginning May 22. On May 31, youth sports and professional sporting events may resume. However, pro sports can only resume without in-person spectators.

Abbott’s decision didn’t come soon enough for some groups. The Del Rio Little League’s board of directors voted to cancel its 2020 season May 14. That came on the heels of Little League International announcing that it was canceling this year’s Little League World Series for the first time in the league’s history.

The Del Rio Babe Ruth Baseball League canceled its 2020 prep division season, for 13-year-olds, on April 14. The league is still holding out hope that it can hold a majors/seniors division season, but it has followed all guidelines from the national Babe Ruth League in regards to how to proceed. Nationally, the Babe Ruth League’s board of directors has asked to forego the league’s regional and world series formats for the 2020 season in order to allow local leagues the chance to play when the go-ahead is given.

Abbott’s announcement immediately brought hope to student-athletes who have been unable to be a part of any organized practices or play since UIL suspended activity March 13. Sports seasons were eventually canceled altogether April 17.

In the wake of Abbott’s announcement, UIL issued a statement indicating a plan to allow limited activities beginning June 8. The full release is as follows: “UIL is aware of Governor Abbott’s May 18 announcement and is actively working with appropriate state officials to allow schools to begin limited summer strength and conditioning and marching band activities on June 8, 2020. As soon as the details of that plan are finalized, UIL will release them to schools to allow time to plan and prepare for bringing students back to campus for these purposes.”

The San Felipe Del Rio CISD has used the summer months to push its strength and conditioning program as well as activities geared toward specific sports, such as open gym for volleyball and basketball. Athletic director Ric Smith has stated that the district’s athletic programs will follow UIL’s lead, so as soon as UIL comes to a decision expect the school district to announce its plans.

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