Surely you didn’t think that Texas’ favorite sport would stay on the sidelines for long?
More focus will be on instruction, caution and care than nailing the perfect squat rep when University Interscholastic League athletic programs return to in-person strength and conditioning training Monday.
Teams won’t be crawling, walking and then running through coronavirus-altered training this summer. North Shore football coach Jon Kay said “we’re really going to be sitting first, then crawling and then walking and then jogging.”
They have no choice, considering the thorough safety precautions.
The UIL’s outlined requirements for in-person weight training and sport-specific skill instruction include a maximum of 25 percent capacity at indoor workout facilities. It means approximately 36 people — including coaches and athletes — will be allowed in Dickinson’s weight room. Masks and face coverings aren’t required by the UIL but will be by Dickinson ISD inside buildings.
Social-distancing measures of at least 6 feet are required, and workout stations will be at least 10 feet apart. That has required some interior redecoration in places like Cleveland, where football coach Jason Fiacco said he and his staff have spaced out stations inside the current weight room and marked spots where players should stand during workouts.
“It’s going to be unlike any other lifting program anybody has really every devised,” Fiacco said.
The UIL is allowing one staff member per 20 athletes during workouts. Hand-sanitizing and washing stations are required, and every weight and bar will be disinfected before each use.
Coaches must be strict “because we’ve got to get this right,” Dickinson football coach John Snelson said. Coaches believe football in the fall hangs in the balance, as does, more importantly, the health of the athletes.
Kay mentions the University of Alabama, where reports say at least five football players tested positive for COVID-19 after a player-led workout session last week.
Teams must adapt on the fly because, as Snelson said, “there is no playbook.” What happens if an athlete gets sick or someone a coach has been around is sick? What happens if a coach misses a session? What happens if participation numbers are larger than expected? All UIL teams regardless of sport can open training Monday, but football is usually a behemoth of a production. Snelson expects approximately 250 football players in Monday morning sessions for ninth through 12th grade alone.
The UIL requires participation to be optional. Snelson expects some parents will be eager for their son or daughter to be somewhere other than home. Some parents will be conservative, which is understandable.
I mean, we’re all just taking it on faith that this will be fine. If we had better testing and contact tracing, I’d feel more confidence. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a spike in COVID cases as a result. I just hope – that word I have to keep using since we don’t have a plan – it isn’t as bad as I fear it could be.