Schools throughout the county have re-opened their doors for summer workouts, which most schools began Monday.
That was the first day that students were allowed back on campus since the state shut down all public schools for protections against spread of the coronavirus.
The return to workouts is not just a free-for-all as schools have a series of guidelines they must follow. Those guidelines are built around wearing masks, cleaning equipment and keeping at least a six-foot distance between workout participants at all times.
That last one has altered how many schools move their players through workouts as smaller weight rooms may not provide the floorspace needed to accommodate entire teams at one time.
“We’re limited to how many we can put in that weight room because it’s not big,” said RCHS head coach Pat Prestridge.
Right now Prestridge is working five groups, each comprised of nine players and one coach, with the first group hitting the weight room at 6 a.m. The team will work out four days a week but because of time and space constraints only two of those days will be in the weight room. The other two will consist of outdoor conditioning.
So which group drew the short straw and has to come in at 6 a.m.?
“Most of our linemen, they like coming in early so they get done and go do what they want to do, go to work or do things around the house,” Prestridge said.
In addition to the guidelines, Prestridge said he is doing everything he can to keep his weight room ventilated to prevent any unnecessary stagnant air. They have the air conditioning running almost nonstop, and the doors to the weight room stay open during workouts.
“We’re letting the air flow through. It’s not stuffy in there,” Prestridge said.
At Woodland, head coach Blair Armstrong is just happy to be doing offseason activities of any kind. After he joined the team in late July last year, Monday was the first day of spring or summer workouts that he has had in nearly a year at his new school.
Woodland’s weight room is a little more spacious, so Armstrong only has to divide his team into two groups. One works out outside, while the other works inside.
“It’s basically the same other than the protocols that we have to follow,” Armstrong said. “I don’t start out right of the gate doing a lot of football. We want to try to get them in a little bit of shape.”
That’s going to be the challenge for most schools after nearly two and a half months of no organized activities. Prestridge said that his players will have plenty of ground to make up in terms of strength and conditioning.
“What they gained from January to the time school was out, they’ve probably lost,” he said. “We just want to try to gain back what we earned from January to the time we got out. We’re not probably going to go up 20 or 30 pounds this summer from what you were doing.”
Armstrong agreed that the off time will necessitate easing his players back, more than he normally would.
“We’re starting kind of with the basics,” he said. “We’ve got some new kids out so we’re just kind of starting a little bit lower than we might normally as this time of year, but it’s nothing we can help. When you’re out of school for two and a half months and you don’t get to lift or workout, that’s the way it is.”
The layoff does have some upside. After not being allowed to be around teammates and coaches for so long, any activity is good activity when it comes to the players’ excitement level.
“As a whole the excitement level is just about as high as it can be of any team I’ve had this time of year,” Armstrong said. “Our kids were already pumped up about having a better season. We’ve got everybody back pretty much, so they were already thinking about, hey, we’re going to be better this year, that sort of thing. So they were already excited about it.”
The June 1 start date for workouts came as something of a surprise for many coaches when it was announced on May 21. Before that announcement June 8 had been set as the tentative date for a return to activities.
That sent several coaches scrambling to get the cleaning supplies and masks that would need in order to satisfy the AHSAA’s guidelines.
“I thought they would go backward before they would go forward, so it really took me by surprise,” Armstrong said. “I had to scramble to get stuff to clean with and everything else. But I’m not complaining. The more time we can get with them the better off we’re going to be.”
The resumption of workouts allows the focus to begin shifting toward football, but the protocols of cleaning and distancing keep concerns about the coronavirus in the back of everyone’s minds.
“I think about my parents that have been through cancer treatments and everything else and me not taking [the virus] home to them. That’s the key,” Prestridge said. “And the kids not taking it home to their grandparents that have heart conditions or whatever because we don’t know where it’s at. So we’re just going to try to be as safe as we can.”