During their summer strength and conditioning program, coaches at Clear Falls High School get about an hour of time with a group of student-athletes before sending them off, cleaning equipment and bringing in the next group. Rinse and repeat until the day is done.
Amid an ongoing pandemic, the Knights want to make their SWAT — speed, weight and agility training — camp the safest hour or so of their day.
“I truly believe that when they’re here, they’re probably going to be in the safest environment they’ll be in all day,” Clear Falls head football coach Zach Head said. “They’re spaced out, everything’s sanitized and we’re following all sorts of protocols.”
The Knights are keeping their groups of athletes small and well spread out. Even on a rainy morning like Wednesday when outdoor activities were washed out, one group of football players worked out in the high school’s weight room, while another did conditioning exercises in the gym.
Each position group is made up of incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors and has its own time slot for workouts. Offensive and defensive linemen report first, followed by defensive backs and outside linebackers, and so on.
“One of the good things about it is our position coaches are with that group the entire time, so they can really tailor the workout to that group’s needs,” Head said. “Certainly, with these smaller groups, they’re getting a lot of one-on-one attention. With the coach of each group having 10, 15 at the most, you can really focus on each kid individually — make sure they’re getting the rep right in the weight room, make sure they’re doing the drill right in the field.”
But, having the football players so isolated has been an adjustment, Head said.
“The negative, football-wise, is our team is never together as one,” Head said. “One of the things you like about summer is they’re all coming together, going through those sprints together, whatever it may be. We just can’t this summer with all the restrictions.”
Incoming freshmen football players and other boys sports work out after the other football groups are finished, and girls sports work out from 10 a.m. to noon. Since the freshmen group is so large, they are limited to strictly outdoor exercises, Head said. A total of about 220 student-athletes are participating in the summer workouts, and the majority kept themselves in shape during the more than three months away from their coaches, Head said.
“In all, there’s about 15 groups that come through the weight room each day,” Head said. “The way we’ve been able to spread it out throughout the whole day has allowed us to keep our numbers small, meet all the guidelines and keep the spacing. We tell them stay 10 feet apart at all times, just to keep it simple.”
In addition to the high school’s facilities, Clear Falls is also making use of nearby Bayside Intermediate School to conduct its SWAT camp.
Like with all schools operating their summer strength and conditioning programs under UIL-mandated restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Clear Falls is requiring pre-screening surveys regarding COVID-19 symptoms, temperature checks, social distancing during workouts and rigorous cleaning of equipment, among several guidelines.
“The plans we put into place have worked pretty well,” Head said. “There’s been little tweaks here, but the kids picked up really quickly all the protocols and guidelines we’ve got to meet.”