The University Interscholastic League released its COVID-19 guidelines Friday afternoon that will allow schools to begin strength and conditioning workouts as well as sport-specific instruction on June 8.
Friday's announcement comes on the heels of the UIL sending a memo to coaches on Tuesday stating it had been working with state officials to come up with a plan to allow teams to return to some form of organized activity.
“We are cautiously optimistic about beginning summer strength and conditioning programs and marching band practices that safely allow students to get back to working with their coaches and directors in preparation for the 2020-21 school year,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in a press release. “While we are eager to resume UIL activities, we must do so carefully, deliberately and with an understanding that major adjustments are needed to ensure safety.”
The released guidelines begin by stating that schools may, but are not required to, begin summer strength and conditioning and sport-specific instruction beginning June 8 under the requirements described below.
The UIL said it will continue to work with state officials and monitor CDC and other federal guidance to determine any potential modifications.
“Schools should take their local context into account when deciding whether to offer summer strength and conditioning on campus by monitoring the situation on the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard,” the release continues. “Schools should follow all local and state requirements when considering strength and conditioning activities.”
Casey Walraven, Cleburne's head football coach and boys athletic coordinator, said he's appreciative towards the UIL for their efforts in putting together a plan so workouts can begin.
“I was really pleased to see how they put it together,” Walraven said. “I think it's a good first step for us to move in the right direction towards getting athletes back in preparation for their activities. You could tell they've been working on it for a while. They're prepared for it and I'm grateful they were. I think it's a really good plan. I think it's a safe plan.
“It's the best we can do to be able to get on with our lives and still be safe and cautious with COVID. … I think it's a good thing for us as coaches to be able to oversee and make sure the [student-athletes] are doing it the right way instead of being out there on their own and maybe not abiding by social distancing. Maybe we can facilitate things to make sure that happens and make it be safer for them.”
Walraven said he, Cleburne ISD Athletic Director Jeri Hall, and Cleburne Girls Athletic Coordinator Rosalind Lawrence will get together soon to put together a Cleburne-specific plan on how to best abide by the UIL guidelines.
“On our end, Coach Hall, Coach Lawrence and myself will meet and come up with a plan for us here in Cleburne that will best suit our kids,” Walraven said. “We'll use every precaution that we need to make sure we're being responsible on our end.”
The UIL suggests schools to have an individual wholly or partially dedicated to ensuring health protocols are being successfully implemented and followed. Schools must follow all requirements of state and local authorities in addition to the requirements below:
Attendance at workouts must be optional for students and in compliance with the rules for summer strength/conditioning programs and sport-specific skill instruction noted below. In addition to on-campus workout options, schools should consider providing students guidance for working out at home or remotely away from school. This can include virtual workouts, emailed or otherwise electronically delivered workout instructions, or any delivery model approved by the local school district.
Attendance records shall be kept, however, students shall not be required or allowed to make up missed days or workouts.
Students may not be given access to locker rooms or shower facilities. Students should report to workouts in proper gear and immediately return home to shower at end of the workout.
During workouts, schools must have at least one staff member per 20 students in attendance to ensure appropriate social distancing, hygiene and safety measures are implemented.
Schools must have hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations readily available in workout areas. Students and staff should be encouraged to use it frequently. All surfaces in workout areas also must be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of each day.
No clothing or towels may be laundered on site or shared during workouts. There can be no shared water or food.
Before the start of summer workouts, and at the start of every week of summer workouts, schools should consider pre-screening all students for COVID symptoms that they or others living in their house may experience. The UIL also suggested schools, if possible should consider taking the temperature of each student each day at the start of the conditioning sessions.
Schools should also plan for entry and exit procedures that reduce the number of students and parents congregating outside or mixing around the workout areas and parking areas.
Schools should consider having students remain with a single group or cohort to minimize the number of students and staff that must isolate if a case is confirmed.
Walraven said he believes the most challenging aspect of following these guidelines as well as social distancing requirements will come in the weight room.
“When you lift, you need the safety of spotters, but with this situation yo've got to be very mindful of how the virus is transmitted, so we've got to be very cautious on how we proceed in the weight room,” Walraven said. “Outside, social distancing is easy. We can get plenty of room there. And even with our skill stuff for football, we can be outside. With basketball and volleyball, I think they can still get some skill work in. But I think the weight room will be the biggest challenge.
“For a team that wants to really strength train, you'll have to watch how you do that. You've got to make sure your plan for the weight room is on par with what we need to do.”
For more information or to read the guidelines in-depth, visit www.uiltexas.org/press-releases/detail/uil-releases-summer-strength-and-conditioning.