Urbana Practice Preview

Urbana quarterback Kyle Howes prepares to throw last summer during a scrimmage before the football season began. FCPS has formed a Return to Play committee to help reconnect student-athletes and coaches after the coronavirus-related layoff, with hopes of getting them back together for summer workouts ahead of the fall season.

For now, Frederick County Public Schools athletics facilities are closed until July 31, meaning county athletes aren’t able to do offseason conditioning at their school until after that date.

But FCPS is looking into the possibility of opening its facilities earlier after Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said Wednesday that schools would be allowed to let students participate in offseason practice and training activities.

“Tennis courts are open for general public use, but everything else is closed or postponed until [July] 31st,” FCPS supervisor of athletics Kevin Kendro said. “But we’re working to adjust that time frame. We’re striving for a more aggressive date than July 31.”

FCPS has formed a Return to Play committee to help reconnect student-athletes and coaches.

“That committee’s going to be comprised of the FCPS staff and also representation from the Frederick County Health Department, our medical community,” Kendro said. “And then we’ll be working hand in hand with [the Maryland State Department of Education] and MPSSAA.”

Guidance from medical professionals and local athletic administrators was one of the requirements mentioned in Salmon’s announcement on Wednesday.

She also said high schools would have to follow guidelines previously set for youth athletics in late May by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Hogan allowed youth sports to hold low-contact practices outdoors in groups that could not exceed 10 people, provided they observed social distancing protocols and had athletes and coaches screened regularly for COVID-19.

Other guidelines include having gear cleaned often and making use of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

When Kendro heard the state’s announcement about allowing athletic workouts, he was excited for the county’s student-athletes and coaches.

“But our commitment is going to remain with safety and health being our top priority,” he said. “So we are going to take our time to prepare for the safe return of our student-athletes.”

Linganore football coach Rick Conner echoed that sentiment.

“Safety first,” he said. “Make sure everybody’s not at risk, and the well-being of our players and our coaches is obviously the ultimate priority.”

Still, after enduring a shutdown of sports that began in mid-March, the possibility of allowing athletes to begin training together — instead of on their own at home — was a welcome development to local coaches and athletes.

“There’s hope,” said Conner, when asked about his reaction to the news.

The activities the state said could resume aren’t full-team practices, which — for fall sports — can’t begin until August 12.

“There will be no coaching because it’s out of season,” Kendro said. “When our student-athletes do return, this would be for offseason conditioning programs, preparation for the next school year.”

The value of such preparation can be invaluable.

“It goes a long way in a couple areas,” Conner said. “One, the prevention of injury, having the proper conditioning to start the rigors of fall sports. And to give you a chance to play your best and be your best ... you are as strong and as fast as you possible can [be] over the three months they get in summer.”

Conner said his players have been working out on their own at home, as have countless county athletes in every sport since schools were shut down.

The state’s permission to let athletes return to school facilities seemingly decreases the odds that the fall sports season will be canceled like the spring season was.

“We fully understand the importance of interscholastic athletics for our students,” Kendro said. “High school sports are held in high value in Frederick County, and we’re very proud of that.”

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