Students, coaches adapting to new guidelines for COVID-19
By Jeff Harrison
Local high school students returned to the football fields, gyms and weight rooms last week for summer workouts.
Mid-Del Schools began phase one of its reopening of athletic facilities June 8. The district is allowing students and coaches to work out on campus with new guidelines for social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation.
Teams are not allowed to practice, scrimmage, or participate in team camps or host youth camps. The district will allow teams to host skill camps if they are sanctioned by the OSSAA. Skill camps provide instruction on fundamentals of a sport.
Students at Midwest City, Carl Albert and Del City high schools are focusing on conditioning and weight training. Coaches have staggered practices for different sports to reduce the number of students on campus at any time. They are checking the temperature of everyone when they arrive at school facilities. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees must leave and cannot return until 72 hours of being fever free.
Andy Collier, director of student activities for Mid-Del, said he has been thrilled by how students and coaches have responded to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our kids have been really excited to be back and the coaches have had to hold them back a little bit, but they’re doing a great job of following the new guidelines,” he said.
Mike Dunn, Del City football coach and athletic director, said they are working hard to adapt to the new restrictions. In the weight room, they have spotters stand on the sides of the weights and stagger groups lifting at any time. Outside, they increase the spacing between students for running and conditioning drills.
The school has also split up the girls and boys sports. Girls workout early in the morning and the boys workout in the second session. All workouts are finished around noon each day. Dunn said they have had about 240 students each day for summer workouts.
Dunn said the restrictions for social distancing are necessary but challenging for team building.
“Summer is really when you see the nucleus of the team and everyone starts jelling together,” he said. “It’s hard because the kids want to be close. They want to be in the huddles breaking it out and messing around with each other. And it’s hard for us as coaches to say to shy away from it.”
Mid-Del Schools created a phased reopening plan after a similar proposal was rejected by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Board last month. The OSSAA plan also included a provision allowing teams to practice for one hour per day during the summer.
“The OSSAA vote kind of hurt us because it made everything go back to the normal rules for summer and any safety precautions were up to us,” Collier said. “We can’t have practices in the summer and normally our kids would be able to go to team camps but we’re not going to allow it this year.”
The OSSAA allowed coaches to contact their students virtually for workouts while school was closed due to COVID-19. Collier said coaches at all three schools reported excellent participation from their students.
“I’m really proud of how our kids embraced that and got to work,” Collier said. “Not every school was doing that. And that’s why our teams are so successful and compete for gold balls.”
The school district is scheduled to move to phase two of the plan on June 29. At that time, the district will reconsider allowing teams to host youth camps. On July 15, fast-pitch softball, volleyball, cross country and marching band can begin unrestricted practices. Cheer and pom, which are year-round sports, can also resume practice.