HORRY COUNTY — Athletic directors, coaches and basketball players across the Grand Strand are preparing for a season like they have never experienced before due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they face new guidelines for the upcoming indoor events.
Much like the high school football season, the South Carolina High School League has put guidelines in place for the basketball season, which include face-covering rules, capacity limits, transportation protocols and what to do if a participant comes in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Both Horry and Georgetown counties plan to adhere by the minimum rules set by the SCHSL and will not implement any additional plans of their own, though the high school league said schools may enforce stricter guidelines.
“It takes a lot to put on a ball game, but it takes even more to put on a game during a pandemic,” said Alicia Johnson, one of Georgetown High School's athletic directors.
Johnson said the school has been working to prepare for the season by marking seats in the stands to ensure social distancing, posting safety signage and making sure announcers frequently explain the safety protocols during games.
Coaches and staff should always wear face coverings while "on site," SCHSL guidelines state. Just pages below that particular guideline in the "best practices" booklet, it states players, coaches and game officials are not required to wear a face mask while on the basketball court, but should wear masks when they are “not actively on the basketball court,” the guidelines state.
Participants must maintain 6 feet for social distancing “when possible.”
Derrick Hilton, Socastee High boys basketball coach, said he and his coaching staff wear masks during practice and while working with the players. Hilton said he is looking forward to the season ahead, reminding his players to follow safety guidelines.
“I have been preparing my guys to expect the unexpected,” Hilton said. “We are just fortunate that we are getting to start the season. I express to my players the importance of these guidelines and to make sure they are practicing them outside of school and basketball because it could all be taken away from us any day due to what we are all having to deal with.”
Hilton said players do not dress out for practice until they have temperature checks and have been questioned about any possible COVID-19 exposures. The school has also separated locker rooms to allow more spacing for players.
Most Horry County high school gymnasiums will have a limit of less than 300 people allowed inside — an exception that was granted to the SCHSL to ignore Gov. Henry McMaster's Executive Order of a maximum of 250 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is smaller.
Here are new capacity limits that HCS released to ensure social distancing:
- Aynor High: 162
- Carolina Forest High: 291
- Conway High: 237
- Green Sea Floyds High: 168
- Loris High: 284
- Myrtle Beach High: not provided by HCS
- North Myrtle Beach High: 220
- Socastee High: 250
- St. James High: not provided by HCS
When it comes to transportation, teams are asked by the SCHSL to have assigned seating to avoid having to quarantine the entire team.
Though Georgetown High hosts the annual Bulldog Shootout Friday night, the Georgetown County School District said Friday morning it was not able to solidify a final plan for public release regarding the season’s safety plans.
“While we are committed to the guidelines and safety protocol as outlined by the SCHSL, we are reviewing our ticket procedures to ensure safety and to be in accordance with capacity limits,” Bethany Giles, GCSD secondary schools director, said in an email to the Post and Courier.
Giles said the district was in the process of finalizing the b-team plan to complete the winter season guidelines.
Georgetown High has the largest capacity of all the county’s high school gyms, allowing 1,850 people inside under normal circumstances. But due to the pandemic, only 462 people will be allowed inside the gym due to the awarded SCHSL exception to ignore the governor's executive order.
Waccamaw High’s gym has the lowest capacity rate across Georgetown County high schools, with 910 people maximum during regular times. The gym will now hold no more than 227 people due to the guidelines.
Johnson said Georgetown High’s varsity girls and boys basketball teams both enter through separate doors in the gym and the junior varsity teams practice in the school's extra gymnasium. All teams have temperature checks before practice and players must bring their own towels and water bottles.
“Hopefully we can get through the winter,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to be the same, but at least we are getting to play. We always want to win, but right now we are looking for the athletes to have some sort of normalcy.
“In the day of COVID, we just take it one hour at a time — not even one day at a time ... things just change in a heartbeat.”