After two days of summer strength and conditioning training, the University Interscholastic League gave high school athletics programs across the state a slight reprieve in coronavirus-related social distancing restrictions.
Effective immediately, a mandated 20-to-1 student-to-staff ratio will be lifted. Beginning June 22, capacity for indoor workouts will be increased from 25 percent to 50 percent, and maximum allowable group sizes will increase from 15 to 25 for outdoor sport-specific skills training and from 10 to 15 for indoor sport-specific skill training.
“It helps us a lot for what we can do outside with position-specific workouts and that type of thing,” Texas City athletic director and head football coach Leland Surovik said.
The increased capacity will allow for fewer and more efficient workout shifts indoors, Dickinson athletic director and head football coach John Snelson said.
“We will just be able to get more kids in a space, and we won’t have to circulate quite as many rounds through,” Snelson said. “But, it’s still on us to keep everybody properly distanced.”
At schools with smaller facilities and an adequate amount of coaches to help run the summer workouts, the UIL’s lightened restrictions won’t result in many changes.
“It benefits the guys with these warehouse-sized weight rooms, but for the rest of us, it doesn’t really change much,” La Marque head football coach Shone Evans said.
Original social distancing and sanitation measures drafted by the UIL before the summer workouts began remain in place. These include no shared or school-provided water or food, student-athletes providing their own towels, mandatory hand-sanitizing stations and frequent cleaning of equipment.
“Everybody’s first goal is to keep the students and the staff safe,” Evans said. “Coaches, in general, just want to get back into it, but the UIL is doing their best to keep us all safe.”
While the UIL could have more immediately followed in the footsteps of the state of Texas’ reopening orders last week, Snelson said he appreciated the more strict measures still being in place when summer workouts began Monday.
“All of us are really focused in on safety and just trying to keep everybody well, and it let us get a feel of how this new normal is,” Snelson said.
Whatever the restrictions may be now and moving forward, coaches across the board were just happy to be reunited with their student-athletes after three months of interactions being limited to social media mentions and video teleconference meetings.
“It was great seeing the kids,” Evans said. “I couldn’t tell who missed who more — if they missed us more, or we missed them more.”