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Football conditioning and workouts rolled out in many pockets of the country this week as athletes and coaches were beyond giddy.
After more than three months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, sweating never felt so good.
"We are blessed and excited to be out here with our guys," Southside (Gadsden, Ala.)
coach Gary Nelson told the gadstentimes.com. Cedar Hill (Texas)
football coach Carlos Lynn told cbslocal.com that his team hadn't done anything structured for 80 days. "Man, you never realize how much you missed doing in those 80 days."
Justin Alumbaugh, coach of national juggernaut De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
, went way out of the coaching box to express his glee. On Monday, he took a selfie on the field and posted it immediately on Twitter, an act not nearly encouraged from a program that generally deflects social media attention. "What a great feeling to be back out in action," he tweeted.
This, of course, is a vastly different time. These workouts aren't nearly as intense or long as previous years at this time.
Every state has offered guidelines that don't supersede local health official standards, which include smaller groups, social distancing, wiping down weights and time limits. In California's Contra Costa County, for instance, De La Salle had an hour with a coach and 11 athletes, starting on Monday.
"We're going to follow every guideline," Alumbaugh said going into the first workout. "We're not hitting the sled. We're not inside lifting or doing the things we normally do. We're not thinking about perfecting our football team. We're just doing what these kids love to do. Being together. Working hard. And being happy."
Starting these workouts isn't a guarantee seasons will begin, or end, as scheduled. Spikes in coronavirus cases could lead to alterations, or even cancellation, of the season. But getting prepared for whatever a season may look like is a start.
"We realize this thing isn't over," Westbrook Christian (Rainbow City, Ala.)
coach Drew Noles said. "The numbers in Montgomery continue to rise. We want to have a season. … We can control us and that's all we can control and hope that everybody is doing the same thing. Because if they're not, we'll be sitting at home on Friday nights."
Even following guidelines can be problematic — like if an athlete tests positive for the virus after starting workouts.
It happened in East Texas this week.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a Stark (West Orange) player tested positive and, as a precaution, the school district suspended all workouts for 14 days.
A West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District release noted the player notified his coach Tuesday of possible exposure through a family member who tested positive for COVID-19. Thompson advised the player and his workout partner on Wednesday to get tested.
When the student confirmed a positive test, the district suspended workouts for the entire squad, even though UIL, the state's governing body, recommends only players and coaches in the one group (cohort) would isolate for two weeks.
The decision to shut down the entire team for two weeks "ensures that we are making every effort to keep our students and staff safe."
Said Superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris: "I am proud of how the students and faculty handled this situation. They followed all guidelines to keep the athletes and coaches safe, reducing the risk to others. We are all learning to be more aware of the health and safety of others."
States are no doubt paying attention to how other entities are handling such unusual circumstances.
The California Interscholastic Federation and its 10 section commissioners have met via teleconference the last three days and are expected to release its guidelines, calendars and plans to roll out the fall season for all sports on Friday.
Addressing transfer and financial hardship concerns will likely also be addressed.
Coaches are sympathetic and understanding that decision-makers are in a tough spot. But they're surely more empathetic about their players not living a full life.
"Information changes all the time," Serra (San Mateo, Calif.)
football coach Patrick Walsh said. "It's a moving target. We understand physical safety is the No. 1 concern, but mental and spiritual health needs to be considered also. Locking humans in is a hard thing to do, but locking in teenagers, with their young developing minds, hearts and spirits, is even harder. Especially at this current date, these kids aren't at the epicenter of the pandemic."
Per the California Department of Health, of the state's 136,191 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, 5 percent (6,844) were from patients ages 5-17. Of the state's 4,663 deaths, none were from that age group.
Though at little or no risk to die from the virus, some health officials warn that teens may act as vectors to pass COVID-19 on. That strength of that evidence has been disputed.
Alumbaugh hopes that "creative solutions" will come out of the CIF meetings.
"Let's think a little out of the box and then try things," he said. "Let's not wait any longer, and say, ‘Let's circle back to August or September.' Because, then what? It's a pandemic and it's awful, but let's deal with it and come up with some open-minded solutions.
"I'm not advocating for full pads now, but we must come up with viable ways to give kids an outlet. They deserve it. Our kids need to know that we've exhausted every possibility and that we tried things, based on safety and science."