The UIL on Friday gave landmark guidance to public school athletics in the state of Texas, which gives schools the green light to open their doors to their student-athletes for the first time since the middle of March.
The guidance issued by the UIL allows athletic programs to begin summer strength and conditioning on June 8, and will allow coaches to work with their players for the first time since the unprecedented lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The guidance does not completely open the door to “normal” operations as the UIL has given schools very specific guidelines on what can and can’t be done at least to start. Below is an outline of the guidelines:
- Attendance at workouts must be optional for students and in compliance with the rules for Summer Strength/Conditioning Programs & Sport Specific Skill Instruction. In addition to on-campus workout options, schools should consider providing students guidance for working out at home or remotely away from school. This can include virtual workouts, emailed or otherwise electronically delivered workout instructions, or any delivery model approved by the local school district.
- Attendance records shall be kept, however, students shall not be required or allowed to make up missed days or workouts.
- Fees, if any, shall be established by the superintendent and collected by the school. Any payment to coaches shall be from the school and from no other source.
- Students may not be given access to locker rooms or shower facilities. Students should report to workouts in proper gear and immediately return home to shower at end of the workout.
- During workouts, schools must have at least one staff member per twenty students in attendance to ensure appropriate social distancing, hygiene, and safety measures are implemented.
- Schools must have hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations readily available in the workout area. Students and staff should be encouraged to use it frequently.
- All surfaces in workout areas must be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of each day.
- No clothing or towels may be laundered on site or shared during workouts.
- There can be no shared water or food.
- Before the start of summer workouts, and at the start of every week of summer workouts, schools should consider pre-screening all students for COVID symptoms that they or others living in their house may experience. This can be completed by phone prior to the first day of workouts, in person or in writing. Students and staff must self-screen every day for COVID-19 symptoms for themselves and family members. Schools should consider taking the temperature of each student each day at the start of the conditioning sessions, if possible.
- Schools should plan for entry and exit procedures that reduce the number of students and parents congregating outside and/or mixing around the workout areas and parking areas. Consider staggering start and end times, assigning students to entries and exits to ensure even distribution of students entering/exiting at each entry point, providing guidance to students to enter one at a time and wait six feet apart outside the entrance.
- If the school is planning to offer transportation for summer activities, schools should follow all TEA guidance and local guidance related to such transportation.
- Strength and conditioning can be a maximum of two hours per day; with sport specific instruction 90 minutes per day with only 60 minutes per day per sport. (Ex. An athlete can spend 60 minutes per day on football and 30 minutes per day on basketball).
- Summer strength and conditioning can be conducted from Monday-Friday with July 3, July 7, July 8, July 20, July 21 being designated as “no activity days.”
- Indoor workout activities can be conducted up to a maximum of 25% capacity.
- Schools should limit the total number of participants based on available space to allow for the appropriate distancing between students and staff.
- Workout stations must be spaced to allow for at least ten feet of distance between them in all directions. Some exercises may require more than ten feet of distance.
- Schools should consider having students remain with a single group or cohort to minimize the number of students and staff that must isolate if a case is confirmed.
- Sport Specific Activities Conducted Outdoors – Students may be placed in working groups no larger than 15 total students. Each working group should maintain appropriate distance from other working groups.
- Sport Specific Activities Conducted Indoors – Students may be placed in working groups no larger than 10 total students. Each working group should maintain appropriate distance from other working groups.
- No competitive drills involving one or more students on offensive against one or more students on defensive may be conducted.
- Any equipment, such as sports balls, should be regularly disinfected during workout sessions. This equipment should not be shared between groups. After a group has used such equipment, that equipment must be thoroughly disinfected before being used by a different group.
There’s no doubt the coaches are excited to see the athletes and get back to work.
“It’s been a crazy time," Crowley head coach JJ Resendez said. "I’d like to hope that 100 percent or our kids are eating right and getting work in, but that’s not always the case. Our kids need to be with us and get some structure, so we are overwhelmed with excitement. Myself and the coaches can’t wait to see the kids and get back at it. When Spring Break got extended a week that was nice, but after two weeks I was ready to get back to work, outside of time with my wife and kids, getting to work with the athletes at Crowley is the best part of my day."
When it comes to adapting to the new rules and still getting in quality work, Tyler Chapel Hill head coach Jeff Riordan doesn’t see any issues for his Bulldogs.
“We’ve over the past two months been preparing for some restrictions and the new normal, so we’ve thought of some ways to navigate through the summer, we are excited to be in front of the athletes and give them some organization and structure, while still being safe.”
There are no doubts that safety is top of mind for coaches, and for good reason as no one wants to see an outbreak after workouts begin.
“We are fired up," Fort Bend Hightower head coach Joseph Sam said. "I’m like a kid in a candy store. I can’t wait to see the kids and our staff feels the same. We have to make sure to do everything we can to keep our kids safe and the coaches safe, I’m going to be on it when it comes to the guidelines, this isn’t the time to push the envelope, because at Hightower we aren’t going to do anything that would jeopardize having a fall football season."
Despite having the ability to work Monday-Friday, Coach Sam says he’s going to stick to a Monday through Thursday routine during summer strength and conditioning.
“We are going to put our hard hat on four days a week, we are going to work our tails off and then kick back on Friday. I want the kids to still be kids and have a summer and with us starting on June 8, we didn’t feel it was necessary to go five days per week.”
Full UIL Guidance can be found HERE.
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