Frederick County Public Schools issued more specific guidance Tuesday as it moves toward potentially having a fall sports season.
In a three-page document titled “COVID-19: Return to Play Summer Guidelines”, the school system outlined protocols and what will be permitted when voluntary conditioning and re-acclimatization activities commence on July 20.
Originally, those activities were going to begin on July 13, roughly a month before formal practices for fall sports are scheduled to begin Aug. 12. But FCPS pushed the start back one week to address concerns and make last-minute adjustments.
“We said from the start that we might have to push it back, and we just weren’t ready,” said Kevin Kendro, supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities.
Under the guidelines, athletes will be permitted one 90-minute outdoor workout per day in a group of no more than 15. Teams with more than 15 athletes will be broken down into smaller groups, and each group will be assigned a coach.
FCPS said at least 25 yards of separation must be maintained between each group, and athletes and coaches will remain in the same group for the duration of the summer conditioning and re-acclimatization activities.
Face coverings are required when social distancing can not be maintained, and team huddles, handshakes, fist bumps and the sharing of water bottles or personal property will not be permitted.
The only equipment allowed will be cones and speed/agility ladders and hurdles.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Jerry Smith, the varsity football coach at Brunswick High School. “We need to start the process of creating something normal or as close to the new normal as we can. ... If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt to get out there and get some exercise.”
The offseason for county football programs typically begins in January. Perhaps no high school sport has been more impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Smith and his players, like most other football teams in the county, fill up their summers by lifting weights and participating in 7-on-7 passing competitions.
“This, to me, has nothing to do with football,” Smith said of the newly released guidelines. “It’s about getting kids back together, getting them outside, giving them some type of structure, some type of direction.”
Other fall sports, such as cross-country, lend themselves to the current climate. It’s an outdoor sport. There is no equipment required. Runners are typically spread out individually or in small groups.
“We really haven’t felt the impact of all this like a lot of the other sports,” said Urbana cross-country coach C.J. Ecalono, who serves on FCPS’ Return to Play committee that drafted and issued the guidance.
In fact, Ecalono doesn’t plan to convene his team on July 20. He’ll continue to check in with each of his runners individually or through virtual group meetings, sharing workouts and encouragement in ways that aren’t far from normal.
“This summer really hasn’t been too different for us,” he said.
FCPS hopes these conditioning activities represent the next step toward a potential fall season, though many questions remain unanswered.
“Our work is not done. It’s really just beginning,” Kendro said. “If we find some things are not working, we may have to make some adjustments.”