During the course of the more than three months stay-at-home orders, Hitchcock athletic director and head football coach Craig Smith said on his occasional trips to his office, the atmosphere was so desolate.
Gone were the clangs of weights being lifted in the field house, and gone were the student-athletes making their way to and from the football field.
Last week, the hustle and bustle of sports returned with summer workouts beginning, and student-athletes didn’t mind one bit that the exercises were being conducted under strict social distancing measures, Smith said.
“They’ve really done a great job of just adapting,” Smith said. “I think they’re just so happy to be around each other. They haven’t seen each other, basically, since March 2. It’s just good to be around the kids again.”
Averaging a little less than 90 participants a day, Hitchcock has set up multiple windows of time to keep its voluntary summer workout sessions as small and as socially distanced as possible.
“It’s going really well,” Smith said. “We’ve had really good numbers.”
Varsity football players have strength and conditioning training from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then can come back to the football field from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for sport-specific instruction. Sub-varsity football checks in from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for strength and conditioning and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for sport-specific instruction.
In Hitchcock’s gymnasium, female student-athletes have a time frame of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for strength and condition and sport-specific instruction, while non-football male student-athletes will conduct their workouts from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Incoming seventh grade football players will begin summer workouts Monday, and the maximum capacity for indoor activities also will increase Monday from 25 percent to 50 percent. But, Hitchcock coaches don’t plan any changes when that happens, Smith said.
“We’re going to still keep our same format; we really like it right now,” Smith said. “It’s going really well.”
Like all schools’ summer workout programs, Hitchcock is abiding by stringent sanitation and social distancing measures. A hand sanitizer station with a Hitchcock “H” is what greets student-athletes first each day, and then it’s a temperature check and a survey regarding COVID-19 symptoms.
Student-athletes are then spread apart in the football stadium’s bleachers before breaking apart into groups — groups they’ll stay with throughout the course of the workouts.
“We keep them in the same group because if one of them were to be come into contact (with the coronavirus), we can can remove just that group,” Smith said. “That’s what the UIL suggested.”
During their first week of workouts, the Bulldogs focused on movement drills — stretching and running, for example — and agility drills outside, as well as typical weight lifting activity inside the weight room.
Little adjustments, such as moving some weight room equipment into nearby Crosby Middle School’s auxiliary gym to create a second weight room, have helped the Bulldogs’ athletes and coaches make the workouts go as smoothly as can be expected.
As social distancing guidelines start to go away, other aspects of life that have come about because of the COVID-19 pandemic will become permanent, Smith said.
“The hand sanitizing stations, they’re here to stay,” Smith said. “It’s just going to be a good habit that everybody has learned, and it’s one of the positive things that have come out of it.”