Local high school coaches have spent nearly two weeks developing a game plan of a different kind — how to safely run voluntary summer workout programs during a pandemic.
Friendswood athletic director and head football coach Robert Koopmann said he’s spent more time planning for these workouts than for any game in his long career.
Dickinson athletic director and head football coach John Snelson earlier this week led his coaching staff on a walk-through of what student-athletes can expect when summer workouts begin Monday.
The University Interscholastic League on May 22 issued guidelines for summer workouts. Galveston ISD athletic director Walter Fortune said he and his staff needed every bit of the time between to prepare for Monday.
A general consensus is there will probably need to be adjustments made and trial and error along the way for the summer workouts.
“We just need to be flexible,” Fortune said. “If we see that something we had planned doesn’t look right, we may need to change it right there on the spot. This is new for everybody, and every AD that I’ve talked to have told their staff the same thing.”
A key to success will be for coaches to display the ability to conduct the workouts properly for the sake of those who might be hesitant to participate and for the sake of being able to have a football season in the fall.
“I’m sure there may be some that are waiting to see how we do this and to evaluate how we’re doing it before they allow their children to come up here and work out,” Fortune said.
‘we’re taking this seriously’
Like at many schools, at Dickinson High School, where as many as 350 student-athletes are expected to participate in its summer workouts, there will be a thorough check-in system, hand sanitizer stations, informative signage and markers, enforcement of social distancing protocols and rigorous cleaning of equipment.
“We just hope that everybody — all leagues and coaches, from little league on up — are really smart and aren’t focusing on the wrong things instead of safety and development,” Snelson said.
Before attending each day’s workouts, student-athletes will be required to fill out an online questionnaire regarding symptoms associated with the coronavirus. The participants will then wash their hands at a sanitation station before checking in at the gymnasium with one of the school’s four athletic trainers. Markers lined up 6 feet apart will indicate where each student-athlete can stand in line, and the four check-in tables also will be spread apart.
“We will always maintain 6 feet of social distancing, and 10 feet when we’re exercising,” Snelson said. “So, 10 feet in the weight room, 10 feet in the gym, 10 feet outside.”
At the check-in tables, athletic trainers will verify each questionnaire has been completed and will check each student-athlete’s temperature before sending them to one of the gym’s three basketball courts. There, the student-athletes will be spread out before being escorted through a propped-open gym side door to their particular workout area.
“More than anything, we’re doing this so the parents and kids can see that we’re taking this seriously,” Dickinson head athletic trainer John Harmon said.
Football players will be split into groups based on their position and will either head to the football field for skills and conditioning workouts or to the weight room for strength training. During conditioning drills, there will be a one coach to 20 players ratio and a one to 15 ratio for skills workouts, and there will be no one-on-one or team competitions, Snelson said.
“If we had one coach in contact with every kid in the camp and one person got sick or that coach got sick, then the whole thing gets shut down,” Snelson said. “So, we’re going to keep those numbers small.”
At about 6,800 square feet, Dickinson’s weight room can hold 30 people at a time with 25 percent capacity. Each student-athlete will be spread 10 feet apart and perform three to five exercises at a weigh station where they will be the only person touching the weights. In between each individual session, the weights will be sanitized.
“We are going to do bar complexes,” Dickinson strength and conditioning coach Marvin Welch said. “A bar complex is a set-up of three to five different exercises, but that one person doesn’t leave that bar.”
Two student-athletes will be assigned to a weight platform, 10 feet apart, with one doing the bar complexes and the other doing an auxiliary body weight movement workout, Welch said. Whoever is using the equipment will be responsible for cleaning it before leaving to do another workout.
“You touch it, you clean it,” Welch said.
For indoor workouts, coaches will be required to wear masks, while outdoors, the masks will be optional, Snelson said. Masks will be recommended, but not required, for the student-athletes, Snelson said.
‘NEED SOME TIME TO VISIT’
The safety measures Dickinson displayed will be taken in varying methods at all of Galveston County’s high schools as summer workouts begin Monday.
At Friendswood High School, spread-apart check-ins with symptom screening and temperature checks will take place at the football stadium, and workouts will take place at two different campuses — football at the high school and all other sports at Friendswood Junior High. At the high school, there also will be auxiliary workout stations on the tennis courts in addition to the the football field. Friendswood’s weight room will fit 14 student-athletes at a time spread 10 feet apart.
“My expectations for the next two weeks are to get them moving and get them sweating,” Koopmann said. “We’re not going to win games or lose games in the next two weeks; we just need to get kids up and moving and get into routines.”
Day one of Friendswood’s summer workout program will be more of a demonstration of how the workouts will be conducted and a welcome back for the student-athletes than actual workouts, Koopmann said.
“We haven’t seen these kids since March, and the social distancing is going to be the hardest part because we’re going to want to be around the kids,” Koopmann said. “It’s kind of like the first practice coming back from Harvey; we just need some time to visit.”
Ball High will dedicate much of the early days of its summer workout program to educating its student-athletes about a variety of coronavirus-related safety measures and about the pandemic itself, and won’t make its weight room or indoor activities immediately available, Fortune said.
“The biggest thing, overall, is just teaching the kids how to workout in this new normal, so that we can move forward,” Fortune said. “If this goes well, and this is just my own personal belief, we’ll go back to full competition in August.”
Student-athletes will be required to bring their own food, water — a gallon jug is recommended — and towels, as schools are unable to provide either because of the COVID-19-related restrictions.
“We won’t be able to do high fives or back slaps or butt slaps and all that,” Welch said. “This whole thing has kind of changed the whole concept of team camaraderie. But, this too shall pass, and we’ll get over it and make it work.”