No audience

Crossroads Christian soccer player Caden Woodward (10) gives chase towards the ball during a game in the 2019 season. The CCS men’s soccer team will begin its season on Sept. 14, but because of COVID-19 there will not be any fans in attendance.

HENDERSON — Gymnasiums and soccer fields will be much quieter for schools affiliated with the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association during the fall sports season, as no fans will be allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crossroads Christian athletic director Scottie Richardson was expecting the announcement following a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, but he expressed disappointment in the fact that no students, parents or fans will be able to support the school’s teams in person.

“We’re a small school, so school spirit is a huge part of what we are,” Richardson said. “This summer, we created a whole new athletic logo and we’ve really started to build brand identity with our athletic program, so it’s difficult to know that it will just be our student athletes and team personnel for the time being.”

Crossroads student athletes have been participating in offseason workouts since June 1 under social-distancing guidelines that have involved things like routine temperature checks, mandatory face coverings and constant cleaning of equipment like basketballs and volleyballs.

The NCISAA had initially settled on Aug. 10 as its start date for fall sports, but an extension on Phase 2 of North Carolina’s reopening plan forced it to postpone season openers for cross country, women’s tennis and women’s golf to Sept. 8, with men’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball following on Sept. 14.

Now that Richardson knows that fans will not be permitted for those events, he is currently trying to figure out how to boost school spirit and make games available for students and parents at home.

He is optimistic that these temporary changes are short-term and will not extend into winter or spring sports.

“We’re going to have to get creative with live streaming,” Richardson said. “We have people out on the soccer field trying to figure out the best angles to mount cameras. We’re hoping that by the end of the season we will have some percentage of capacity that we can use for social distancing to get fans back in, even if it’s just for senior parents.”

Providing access to fans for fall sports events has only been a small part of Richardson’s preparation for the upcoming season, as he recently held a meeting with all of his coaches to discuss the frantic schedule that will consist of a five-week regular season, two weeks of playoffs and no conference tournament.

Richardson knows that CCS student athletes will be under pressure to perform during every single game to ensure strong playoff spots for their respective teams, but he believes that everyone’s morale is positive and energetic with the regular season less than two weeks away.

“The players are actually happy,” Richardson said. “They’ve worked out for so many months now, so they’re just ready to go play somebody. Fans or no fans, everyone is ecstatic to compete instead of playing intersquad games every day.”

Although Richardson is unsure of when fans will be allowed back at CCS, he said that the school is ready to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during games with thermal cameras designed to check the temperatures of everyone that enters the building within a few seconds.

Richardson affirmed that safety will be paramount for students, parents and everyone in the Henderson community when CCS does get approval from the NCISAA to allow spectators on the premises.

But he said live attendance will only be possible if everyone keeps adhering to social-distancing guidelines implemented by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper.

“It’s one of those things where everything is subject to change,” Richardson said. “The NCISAA is not tied into the phases of our state, but they are looking at the data and they are going to steer us in the right direction.”

Richardson said that any updates on events taking place at CCS will be provided on the school’s website at ccscolts.org/site.