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Schools excited to be back in action

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Herald Democrat

There was one prevailing feeling across the fields and courts of Texoma on Monday — everyone’s glad to be back at work.

“It was great to see them razzing each other. The camaraderie was fantastic,” Sherman head football coach J.D. Martinez said.

Several area high schools took advantage of the ability to return to practices and conditioning sessions while others are scheduled to begin over the next week.

It was a sense of off-season normalcy after nearly three months of being officially sidelined since the University Interscholastic League shut down sanctioned activities in the latter part of March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While athletes were allowed to work out and practice on their own, the regiment of summer participation almost two months to the day for the start of the 2020-21 athletic season brought hope for moving forward.

The schools that opened back up on Monday included Sherman, Van Alstyne, Gunter, Howe, Bells, Whitewright, Collinsville, Tioga and Tom Bean.

“We were really excited to have the kids back out there. We had great numbers,” Bells head football coach and athletic director Dale West said. “We’ve got to be real careful with what we do. We understand it’s going to be a process. We’ve been restricted on the one-on-one stuff and how with how we block, it helps to have a defender out there to teach so we’ve had to be creative.”

Sherman started with high school athletes and will have incoming junior high students open their workouts next week.

The Bearcats are breaking their days into three sessions — 10-12th grade boys from 8-9:15 a.m.; 10-12th grade girls from 9:30-10:45 a.m.; all incoming freshmen from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. On Monday, there were 88 non-freshman boys, 62 non-freshman girls and 78 total freshmen (43 boys/35 girls) take part.

“We didn’t run at all. We stretched, tested mobility, were teaching form,” Martinez said. “Today was about finding out, getting used to the heat and getting used to each other again and we’ll add onto it.”

Sport specific training will take place starting on June 15, which is also the first day for junior high athletes at Piner. They will have four sessions — seventh-grade girls from 7-7:50 a.m.; eighth-grade girls from 8-8:50 a.m.; seventh-grade boys from 9-9:50 a.m. and eighth-grade boys from 10-10:50 a.m.

Tom Bean has all students for incoming grades 7-12 participating together. All female athletes will have conditioning from 8-9:15 a.m. and then do their sport specific workouts during the ensuing hour while male athletes are slated for conditioning from 9:30-10:45 a.m. with the next hour focusing on their specific sport.

Tom Bean will have two weeks off, the first coming after three weeks of activity and matching the UIL-stated guidelines for Fourth of July week, come back for two weeks, take another week off and then close out during the final week of the month.

The Denison Yellow Jackets will have their first session starting on Wednesday, then go until a week break leading into the Fourth of July and another week off starting with July 20.

“There’s nothing wrong with doing a little more homework and the extra prep work,” Denison head football coach and athletic director Chad Rogers said. “The coaches were up here getting ready. We’ve been taking notes on what other programs are doing. Our kids have been working out, doing stuff and around 70 percent have been doing the Zoom meetings. We think they’re going to come in in pretty good shape.”

Pottsboro, S&S and Whitesboro will wait an extra week and have their first conditioning sessions on June 15.

Whitesboro will hold 23 total workouts between June 15 and July 30 with a Fourth of July week break.

The high school athletes will have strength and conditioning from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and then have sport specific training from 10-11 a.m. Middle school athletes will do strength and conditioning from 9-10:30 a.m.

S&S, which did start some sport skill workouts this week, is following a similar schedule by giving athletes the same week off. Incoming seventh and eighth-graders will begin on June 22.

High school athletes will do strength and condition based on grade and gender — junior and senior boys start at 7 a.m., all girls start at 7:50 a.m. and freshman and sophomore boys start at 8:40 a.m. — before starting their sport specific training. For that, high school boys will start at 8:40 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. for high school girls. S&S will use Fridays as sport specific training only.

The UIL had announced revised guidelines for summer strength and conditioning and sport specific instruction programs on May 22 which made June 8 the the starting point for off-season workouts based around safety precautions in regards to the coronavirus.

Among the rules and regulations include two-hour limits per day for strength and conditioning sessions and 90 minutes per day for sport specific skill instruction from Monday to Friday, athletes will not have access to locker rooms or shower facilities while responsible for bringing their own water and a limit of students is in place based on location of the activities.

The seven-page manual provides the road map for teams leading up to volleyball and cross-country practices, which are slated to begin on August 3 and competition set to start the following week. Football practices are scheduled to start on August 5 with the first Friday of the regular season being August 28.

There are five dates where school facilities will not be available to athletes — July 3, July 7-8 and July 20-21.

During workouts, schools must have at least one staff member per 20 students in attendance to ensure social distancing, hygiene and safety measures are followed and provide hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations to be readily available.

Surfaces in workout areas must be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of the day while no clothing, towels, food or water can be shared. Equipment, such as balls, should be regularly disinfected during sessions and should not be shared between groups. It must be disinfected before being used by a different group.

Competitive drills involving one or more students on offense against one or more students on defense are not allowed.

The UIL also states that at the start of every week, schools should consider pre-screening students for COVID-19 symptoms and consider taking the temperature of each student each day before sessions begin.

For sport specific activities taking place outside, athletes may not be placed in groups of larger than 15. When those activities are conducted indoors, students can not be in groups larger than 10.

Indoor workout activities can be conducted at 25 percent of maximum capacity and workout stations must be spaced to allow for more than 10 feet of distance in all directions.

If a student does test positive for COVID-19, schools are directed to follow the Texas Education Agency’s protocol for that situation.

“From the whole standpoint, the organization with it is totally different,” Martinez said. “It’s been our focus to make sure our kids are safe and we follow all the protocols.”

Athletes from Sherman and Bells were among those returning to practice and workouts for the first time in nearly three months. [Sara Carpenter / For the Herald Democrat