NYSPHSAA Covid-19 Task Force unveils guidelines for offseason workouts

NYSPHSAA Covid-19 Task Force unveils guidelines for offseason workouts

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Tim Delaney-South Park-Starpoint-High School Football-Scull

South Park football coach Tim Delaney plans to continue with virtual team meetings until receiving the OK from district officials to get players together to start conducting offseason workouts on district grounds. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Western New York must be in Phase Four, and student-athletes must be healthy before being able to participate in any voluntary offseason programs for their respective school districts.

That’s among the recommendations from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Covid-19 Task Force, which unveiled its summer guidance recommendations for voluntary offseason programs Friday.

The Covid-19 Task Force, which includes Alden Superintendent Adam Stoltman, is providing direction for that as it is guiding schools that choose to allow offseason conditioning workouts and programs on district grounds.

While the guidelines were unveiled, coaches still must wait for and follow whatever directions are provided to them by the school district before organizing any team activities.

“I’m waiting for somebody to tell me I can be with my kids,” South Park football coach Tim Delaney said. “Until someone tells me we can get together, we’re continuing with our virtual meetings with our guys.”

This could be an encouraging sign that the fall sports season will begin as expected Aug. 24, but it’s still too early to say for certain it will be all systems go for members of the NYSPHSAA that day.

The area must be in Phase Four – with schools open to in-session learning – in order for sports teams to gather for practices, NYSPHSAA officials said earlier this week. Once that happens, then teams need to follow rules set forth by the NFHS, which unveiled a three-phrase plan last month.

The most important rule in place is student-athletes and coaches who are sick are encouraged to stay home. If they have symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19, they must stay home and won’t be allowed to return until meeting the department of health’s criteria for discontinuing quarantine. In addition to sick individuals, those who come into contact with the virus or are suspected to have Covid-19 must notify school-district administrators.

According to a statement from the Task Force: “School districts are encouraged to be familiar with Center for Disease Control, New York State Department of Health and local health department guidance, as well Governor Cuomo’s restrictions, local laws and policies. School districts should discuss programming with local health departments prior to making final decisions on how to best approach offseason programs.”

The Task Force provided a list of pre-workout protocols before athletes can engage in offseason activities. They include:

-- School districts should consider implementing coronavirus screening for coaches and players for signs/symptoms. Those who have tested positive won’t be allowed on campus.

-- Athletes must wash hands with disinfectant soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer when water isn’t available before practice.

-- No shared water bottles among teammates. Each player must bring a full bottle of water to avoid touching tap or water fountain handles.

-- Avoid or limit the use of carpools.

-- Arrive no more than 15 minutes early.

-- Avoid touching gates, fences, benches, etc. if possible.

During workouts, athletes must follow directions for spacing and remain six feet apart. Sharing of equipment is prohibited with the Task Force suggesting school district have cleaning wipes or disinfectant for students to wipe equipment following use. No physical contact, including shaking hands or high fives.

Athletes also must avoid touching their face, sharing food, drink or towels. They also must maintain proper social distancing during breaks. When working in small groups the same athletes should remain together for other drills. No mixing of groups.

After workouts, athletes must wash hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer. They also won’t be allowed to use the locker room or changing area. They must leave the facility as soon as possible. They must shower at home and wear proper attire to and from practice.

The rules will be tough to enforce but are necessary, Cleveland Hill football coach Glen Graham said.

“I think at our place we’ll either have to change some of our preparation, adapt or do a better job of scheduling things,” said Graham who also coaches girls basketball and track and field in the spring. “We’ll follow the guidelines as strictly as we can.  It really comes down to doing what’s best for the health and safety for your kids and coaches.”

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