Pinellas student-athletes back in action this week

Many aspects of high school sports this year, including team photos like this one posted on the Dunedin High football Twitter account, will have a different look.

The wait is over for Pinellas County student-athletes longing to get their seasons underway.

Fall sports – cross country, football, golf, swimming and volleyball – are permitted to start playing games or participating in meets next week after being delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the first junior varsity football games will be played Thursday, followed by varsity games on Friday. There will be some exceptions based on scheduling issues, availability of referees, etc. Countryside High issued a tweet Aug. 28 announcing six of nine total games being moved from Friday to Thursday, including the Cougars’ opener this week at home against Hollins.

The Pinellas County School Board and the county’s Return to Play committee have also created guidelines for students, family members and friends wishing to attend games this fall. According to a press release, the guidelines are subject to adjustments based on COVID-19 conditions and updated advice from medical professionals.

Attendance for junior football games will be capped at 25 percent capacity and guests will have to purchase tickets online. Spectators are advised to visit the website of their school to find ticket information.

No spectators will be allowed at swim meets or volleyball matches through Sept. 18. Beginning Sept. 19, a limited number of guests may begin to be permitted.

Cross country spectators will be allowed at courses but must stay in a designated viewing area. No one is allowed at the start or finish line.

No spectators will be permitted on golf courses during matches.

For all those unable to attend games in person, Pinellas County Schools announced partnerships with The Identity Tampa Bay and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Network to stream some high school sporting events. The press release states that 32 automated cameras have been installed at all 16 high schools.

Watching through the NFHS Network requires signing up for a monthly or yearly subscription at NFHSnetwork.com. The options are paying $10.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

The Identity Tampa Bay broadcasts are free to view. Multiple football and volleyball games per week are expected to be streamed at theidentitytb.com. Viewing schedules are expected to be released soon.