Although athletic directors may have an idea of when their schools can start practicing, it seems like coaches are left to wonder exactly when that may be.
Gov. Tom Wolf released his return-to-play guidelines Wednesday morning and Pennsylvania should see sports return in some capacity over the coming weeks. Two big notes to take away from the guidelines were that sports are now allowed to return under the yellow and green phases and that each school district has to come up with their own personal guidelines — following the state’s own recommendations — and then get approval for their plan by the school board.
Athletic directors have been in constant contact trying to come up with their own guidelines and attempting to get their sports back to practice as soon as they can, but it seems coaches are left in a wait-and-see approach; they may have an idea of what to do to keep their athletes safe, but won’t have a solid plan until one is posted.
“I was expecting much more,” Mechanicsburg field hockey head coach Tonya Brown said about the new guidelines. “I think now we wait for our athletic director to provide direction.”
“We are now waiting on the school district to notify us when we can start once the [Athletics Health and Safety Plan] is approved,” Boiling Springs girls soccer head coach Steve Brookens said. “I believe having each school district tailor their own plan is a good idea.”
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Before the new guidelines were released Wednesday, teams were forced to wait until July 1 — the start of the 2020-21 school term — to begin offseason practices. But now, teams will be able to hold practices prior to that date if once school boards approve those return-to-play plans. Several ADs indicated in the last two days they would have those ready in the coming weeks — still around July 1 in all likelihood.
Coaches and “adult personnel” are to wear face masks at all times, unless for medical reasons, and coaches and athletes are required to maintain social distancing guidelines as much as possible, regardless of what phase their county may be in. Teams must also screen their athletes prior to practices for symptoms of COVID-19 and anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or above should be sent home.
The social distancing aspect raised a question with Carlisle cross country coach Ed Boardman, who said the process has been a “continued frustration.”
“Running is not a contact sport and people should be exercising, in my opinion, now more than ever,” he said.
The state’s guidelines did not make separate rules for high-contact and low-contact sports — although the National Federation of State High School Associations guidelines in May called football a high-risk sport and split all sports into three tiers.
“I was relieved that we will be able to start prior to the July 1 date the PIAA previously had mentioned, and that we should be able to start practice and our season as scheduled,” Brookens said. “Of course I realize that things could change, but as of now I’m very optimistic that we will be able to play this fall.”
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