High school sports took a small step toward normal Tuesday when the University Interscholastic League announced when schools could begin summer workouts.
The UIL’s announcement comes a day after Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a second phase of the reopening of Texas, which included youth sports and summer camps being allowed to open and professional sports leagues hosting events without spectators by the beginning of June.
“UIL is aware of Governor Abbott’s May 18 announcement and is actively working with appropriate state officials to allow schools to begin limited summer strength and conditioning and marching band activities on June 8,” the UIL posted on its social media accounts Tuesday afternoon.
More details regarding guidelines and restrictions are being finalized and will be released to schools, the UIL’s announcement stated.
Dickinson ISD athletic director and head football coach John Snelson said he was surprised the UIL allowed the return of summer workouts this soon but was excited to be able to coach his student athletes once again.
“The kids and the coaches have been apart from each other for so long, and we’ve kind of gotten out of our routine,” Snelson said. “We’re really excited to get back together and get in that routine of getting better every day and building that camaraderie and team chemistry and getting back to work.”
Striking a delicate balance between safety and getting players prepared for their seasons under a hot Texas sun is nothing new to local coaches, but the coronavirus pandemic certainly adds a new wrinkle to the equation. While schools wait for forthcoming guidance from the UIL, athletic departments will be preparing to enact COVID-19 safety measures.
Those measures likely will include screening questions, temperature checks, coaches wearing face masks, daily sanitation of equipment and facilities, student-athletes bringing their own water or sports drink from home, social distancing and limitations on overall group size, as well as a set athlete-to-coach ratio.
“There’s a lot of planning to go through over the next three weeks to get everything ready so everybody knows exactly what needs to happen,” Galveston ISD athletic director Walter Fortune said. “And when that comes, we’re going to have to reteach the kids all of this because it’s not the same as it was before spring break.”
Although programs can be proactive in their preparation for the return of student athletes, there also are multiple questions the UIL will have to address.
“If they are going to let us in our weight rooms, then what are the limitations going to be,” Snelson said. “Are they letting us inside gyms, and if they do, then what are the limitations going to be? If we’re outside, what kind of equipment can we use? Those are just kind of the final touches that we’re working on.”
Once plans for a return to summer workouts are formed, they’ll go before school superintendents for final approval.