It’s still unclear to what degree COVID-19 will impact the fall sports season. As regions throughout the state continue to open up and the powers that be continue to provide guidelines for how to stay safe, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association is working on giving coaches a guideline on how to safely workout.
The NYSPHSAA COVID-19 task force delivered its first set of guidelines for coaches to consider when operating summer workouts and conditioning camps. This is for all activity prior to Aug. 24, the official start of the fall season.
The COVID-19 task force does not have the power to force schools to operate their workouts a certain way, it’s only a guide for schools to consider, along with following the orders made by the state for their respective region.
“The NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force is providing this guidance to assist schools if they choose to allow off-season conditioning workouts and programs on their school campus,” the guide states.
The guide suggests that when schools begin their voluntary off-season workouts, they follow the three-phase plan laid out by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Prior to schools beginning those phases, the task force says that the following steps need to be met:
“1) School enters phase four of the NY Forward reopening plan, 2) School district permits campus facilities to open to students and faculty, 3) New York State recommended social distancing and safety protocols can be implemented in a safe and appropriate manner.”
Much of the task forces’ guideline for summer workouts follows the guidelines put forth by the state. The guideline says the following about face coverings:
“State, local or school district guidelines for cloth face coverings should be strictly followed. The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Face coverings for students may be considered optional during activity.”
The guide suggests that any athlete or coach who is possibly sick should remain home and consult with a healthcare provider. It also suggests that any coach or athlete who may have been in contact with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19 also stay home and monitor their health.
There are steps the guide suggest coaches should take before conducting any workout, such as screening players for symptoms:
n “School districts should consider creating a protocol to screen coaches and students for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout.
n Protocol may include screening questions for each person which should be recorded and stored so that there is a record of everyone present in case a student develops COVID-19. Any person with positive symptoms reported should not be allowed to take part in workouts, should leave the school facility and campus as soon as possible and contact his or her primary care provider or the other appropriate health-care professional.
n Vulnerable individuals should not oversee or participate in any workouts.”
Students should also be made aware of the proper precautions required prior to returning to campus. This includes adequate hand washing and bringing a full water bottle to avoid touching tap or water fountain handles.
The guide suggests that during a workout, the students should:
n Follow directions for spacing and stay at least six feet apart from others.
n Not share equipment. School districts should consider providing cleaning wipes or disinfectant for students to wipe equipment immediately following use.
n Not make physical contact with others, such as shaking hands or giving high fives.
n Avoid touching their face, sharing food, drinks or towels.
n Maintain appropriate social distancing from others when taking breaks.
n Remain together and work in the same small groups (cohorting), rather than switching groups or mixing groups. Staggering arrival and drop-off times or locations by group is suggested to limit contact between groups.
During summer workouts and conditioning, the task forces’ guide suggests that students not use locker rooms or changing areas after workouts and to shower once they return home.
Once the north country reaches phase four of reopening, school facilities will be allowed to reopen, however, their protocol and safety precautions will be administered by the school’s health director.
Carthage football coach Jason Coffman is trying to visualize what summer workouts and then training camp could look like. Players could be wearing facemasks or splash guards and there could be smaller groups of players, but it’s still challenging to determine what will be required.
“During the summer we do our weight room stuff and we have a passing league, which is seven-on-seven, and stuff like that is going to be changed,” Coffman said. “It might have to go down to five-on-five or whatever we have to do. We’re just really right now, looking for anything we can do to get the kids together and have social interaction while practicing the social distancing.
“We know social distancing is something that we’re going to have in our lives for a long time to come, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. But we don’t have any problems with kids wearing masks and with the helmets there’s probably going to be some sort of splatter shield, or whatever they’re calling it, to stop germs from traveling.”
For teams like Carthage that will be introducing many new players to varsity football, restrictive summer workouts, or no workouts at all, could be detrimental to building up the team and that may be reflected in the initial weeks of the season.
With Aug. 24 still more than two months away, the NYSPHSAA has yet to release any guide of its own for how falls sports would operate in the age of COVID-19 — the task force will continue to meet to evaluate what steps and precautions are necessary to take. That doesn’t mean it’s not on coaches’ minds. According to the survey released by the NYSPHSAA on Sunday, coaches are concerned about the logistics of the safety measures while trying to run a practice or a game.
“You have to have it in the back of your mind,” Coffman said. “If a kid put a mask on, does that change how close they can be? I’ve read some things and this is my understanding, that I may be incorrect on, is that it doesn’t transmit through handshakes and stuff like that as much as what they said. It’s more from the mouth. So if they put masks on, if we put something over their mouth and over their nose, is that going to allow us to do things more in bigger groups? Or are they going to say you can have 11 here, 11 here there, 11 here and 11 there, because 10 obviously doesn’t work for football.”
Coffman is confident that no matter what the required precautions are they will be able to modify their practices to follow the rules.