Despite the announcement by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio High School Athletic Association that skills training was allowed to begin early last week, Henry County sports teams decided to wait and are set to begin practicing at school facilities Monday.
Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton’s school closure order, signed April 29, had been changed to allow school districts, with aid from local health departments, to determine the usage of all school athletic facilities, both indoor and outdoor.
On Wednesday, superintendents, principals and athletics directors from the four Henry County high schools met with Henry County Health Commissioner Mark Adams and established guidelines for student-athletes and coaches to follow while practicing.
Liberty Center Athletics Director Kaleb Pohlman released the guidelines on Twitter Thursday.
• All athletes must stay six feet apart at all times.
• Athletes and families will be responsible to conduct a self-symptom test at home before attending a conditioning event. The coach will ask how they are feeling and what their temperature was.
• There will be no locker room access for athletes. Come dressed and ready to participate.
• If conditioning is outside there is not a limit on how many athletes can attend, as long as the 6 feet social distancing is followed. If it is an indoor event (gym, batting cages, weight room, etc.) there is a 10 student-athlete and two coach limit.
• Students are required to wash their hands adequately before attending a conditioning event.
• Hand Sanitizer will be readily available at all sessions to disinfect if there is any unplanned touching of the face or others.
• All equipment will be sanitized and disinfected after every use. Coaches are responsible for seeing that this happens.
• These guidelines are for conditioning and skill work only. No competitions of any kind will take place on school grounds until the state changes its stance on mass gatherings.
• Coaches will not be required to wear masks unless they come within 10 feet of a student-athlete for instruction
• Student-athletes should control their yelling and screaming as much as possible as that is one of the main causes off droplets leaving the mouth.
• Should anything change check with a coach or Twitter for an update.
Pohlman later added that student-athletes must bring their own water bottles to practice as no community water bottles will be permitted.
Patrick Henry Local Schools announced hand sanitizer and a bleach or ammonia cleaner will be available in all facilities being used.
“Our goal is to create an effective opening of our facilities,” PH AD Ben George said. “To do so, social distancing will be followed as much as possible before, between and after workouts, personal hygiene and hand sanitation will be a priority and team competitions will be placed on hold for now.”
George added that while practice can open Monday, some teams may need more time to come up with a plan of how to implement the guidelines.
“The head coaches of our programs will be taking some time to apply the guidelines to their workouts,” George said. “There is a lot of organization that will go into this so some programs may decide to delay starting face-to-face workouts until after June 1. Communication will come from coaches.”
Napoleon Athletics Director Andy Ham said they would be following similar guidelines at Napoleon High School.
“The biggest thing is distancing the kids and making sure they are sanitizing (equipment) in between (workouts),” said Ham. “There is not going to be any high fiving. This is going to be a cultural change to what we are used to.”
Ham said he and the Napoleon varsity coaches are still working on a schedule for the use of facilities, especially the weight room, which will be run by Sam Wesche.
“The one thing that is nice is we have a lot of multiple-sport kids,” said Ham. “It is still a juggling act to get kids into the right groups. We are lifting males with males and females with females.”
Ham said coaches would be allowed to run drills, as long as the practices can maintain social distancing.
“They have to spread out,” he said. “The coaches are being creative coming up with drills to keep the kids spread out.”
While competitive games are not allowed on campus, Ham said they have not ruled out allowing teams to play games off campus.
“We have talked about that with baseball and softball,” said the Napoleon AD. “We are not doing anything on campus right now.”
Holgate AD Rich Finley said it’s possible to use the schedule ahead to build relationships with programs in the Buckeye Border Conference, but stated no such plans have been finalized.
“It would certainly be nice to be able to play some of our new conference rivals and continue to grow that relationship,” Finley said. “But it’s still early in the process for us, and there are a lot of steps in the way that have to happen first.
“One of the obstacles obviously is finding a site that is suitable for competition,” Finley said. “But there are schools that are eager to get on the field, so we’re hopeful we can salvage something this season.”
OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass clarified Thursday the 2019-20 athletic year is over, meaning any competition played over the summer will take place outside of school operations and will not count towards OHSAA records. Teams that play on their own over the summer are doing so as independent organizations.
Ham said returning to practice is a big first step in the return of high school athletics, possibly as early as the fall season.
“This allows us to get the acclimation period going now, and that means we are closer to starting fall sports Aug, 1,” said Ham. “In my mind, this puts us a month ahead of where I thought we would be.”
Pohlman added the timing gives schools time to adjust to any changes that may occur between now and the start of the fall school year.
“We have a number of projects that are ongoing and on schedule to be finished in the fall, so it’d be nice to be back to normal by then,” Pohlman said. “But by us returning a little closer to normal, we can be ready for if the season starts and prepared for whatever measures we need to take if it can’t.”