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Back on the field

High school football teams begin summer workouts

June 16, 2020
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

After months of restrictions imposed by COVID-19, high school athletes are once again able to take to the field, albeit in a way that players and coaches alike will have to adjust to.

The Lee County School District announced on Friday their return to summer workouts guidelines to get student-athletes reunited with their coaches and back to the sport they love.

Lee County Schools Director of Athletics and Activities Dave LaRosa said the program should be considered a "working document," as the district will make adjustments if needed to fit whatever the current climate of the virus is.

"We started working on a plan anticipating, possibly, at some point, this opportunity was going to present itself," LaRosa said. "Everybody's chomping at the bit to get back."

The district over the last five weeks has developed a three-stage plan to help gradually get student-athletes acclimated back to their field of play, while taking all CDC, state and national guidelines into consideration.

Stage One, which runs from June 15-25, will require all coaches and students to be screened for signs/symptoms of coronavirus prior to workouts, including a temperature check. Updated physicals and a signed waiver by parents knowing the potential for coronavirus transmission must also be submitted before a student can participate.

Masks or face coverings are not required to be worn by coaches or athletes, but are recommended. A 6-foot minimum distance should be observed at all times between students, as well as coaches.

Groupings of coaches and student-athletes should not consist of more than 10-20 people at a time. Workouts will be conducted in "pods" with the same group (including coaches) throughout the entire summer.

Workouts, which take place Monday through Thursday, are not to exceed 60 minutes and cannot take place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to account for heat.

Locker rooms will not be open and schools have been asked to take extreme sanitary precautions when it comes to their facilities prior to, during and after workouts.

Prior to the June 15 start date, the district shipped out supplies to the schools to ensure they would be prepared for the start of summer workouts.

LaRosa will be spending the week going around to various schools in the district to ensure protocols are being followed and to gather any constructive information on how to better their blueprint on navigating athletics while accounting for a pandemic.

It seems as if the first few days of workouts have gone smoothly.

"I've received nothing but positive feedback so far," LaRosa said.

For now, coaches are just happy to have their kids back on the field.

"It's really great to be back together, to see their smiling faces and see how excited they were," said Cape Coral High School head football coach Dale More. "They were pumped to be able to see their teammates again, and their coaches."

More said around 30 players participated Monday, and 40 on Tuesday. He expects numbers to grow as players work out their paperwork needed to be eligible.

The school district usually provides the opportunity for student-athletes to receive physicals, but was unable to do so this year with COVID-19 present. Many doctors' offices are also limited in their services, making a simple task a more difficult one.

"There's just some paperwork issues," More said. "We're assisting them in getting their paperwork in order and making sure they have every box checked and good to go."

More said all of his students, coaches and even parents of students have all been very understanding of the current climate in regards to the virus and athletic participation.

"We all have the best intentions for everybody," More said. "We're all trying to be safe, and also have the kids get a little bit of an escape."

Conditioning will be the focus for the first few weeks for More, which is an easy activity to social distance.

"It's all outside for us for the first two weeks; heavy conditioning, agility, plyometrics -- things like that. With lots and lots of opportunity for water," More said.

Students at Cape High have also done their part in following the rules as well.

"What I've been really happy about is that the kids, you'd almost expect them to break the rules and high-five or go hug or just be around each other closer than they are supposed to be, but our kids have really paid attention to what we're supposed to be doing and the guidelines."

For Mariner High School's football program, this year's slogan is "adapt and overcome," something head coach Josh Nicholson and his staff are also having to do when it comes to prepping for the season amidst a pandemic.

He and his staff were happy to get back onto the practice field to reunite the group who has only been in contact virtually.

"It was definitely different, but it was awesome to be back with the kids," Nicholson said. "The kids were very excited to be back -- the coaches I know were excited to be back. We were all going stir-crazy."

Nearly 40 students participated in Tuesday's workout at Mariner. Nicholson, who is also dealing with paperwork for his players, expects more to arrive once they are able to receive their physical.

Nicholson said on Monday they had around 60 players show up and had to send more than half of them home just due to paperwork.

He said parents have been doing a great job in working with the school and coaching staff.

Adapting and overcoming was chosen this year, Nicholson said, because of how the message applies to the real world and also on the football field.

"Adapt and overcome applies to everything in the world," Nicholson said. "You might come into a situation in a football game or practice, and maybe it's not perfect or something happens and you have to figure it out. You have to adapt and overcome. Our kids are doing a really good job of embracing that, because they're used to an old school football practice getting in a huddle and breaking it, we can't do that anymore."

Both coaches are proud of their student-athletes of the commitment made to the sport they love.

"The kids that are here working with us, it's because they love football," Nicholson said. "They love the game and are willing to do whatever it takes. They're willing to stay 6 feet away from their teammates and change other habits just so they can keep the game of football alive."

Coaches are being safe for the kids and for their own families.

"We're being safe for the kids, we're being safe for ourselves most of the coaches have families at home, too," More said. "We're doing our best to make sure we're protecting the children, of course, but also our own selves and own families at home. I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to do what we're doing and in a safe manner. I'm happy about our situation. Crawl before you walk."

Stage Two is set for June 29-July 9. Stage Two will incorporate all of the pre-workout checks as well as add some more flexibility. Indoor workouts will be allowed, but also in pods of 10-20. Workouts will now be up to 90 minutes. Also, lower risk sports and moderate risk sports according to the NFHS training may resume.

Phase Three is set for July 13-July 23. All coaches and students will still be checked for symptoms prior to workouts, including temperature checks. Gatherings of up to 50, indoor or outdoor, could resume. Workouts will still last no longer than 90 minutes.

LaRosa did note these stages are subject to revision.

For the full guidelines, visit www.leeschools.net.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 
 

 

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