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Re-opening athletics
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Re-opening athletics

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If you have a high school athlete in your household, you might be wondering when they can start back with athletic activities.

Some youth leagues have restarted, and others are looking at starting soon. The South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) announced on May 28th that school districts can return to live activities. Each school district will determine their actual start date. Coaches have been able to work with their athletes virtually since May 1.

Guidelines have been established for school districts to utilize to maintain safety and limit risk of transmission of COVID-19 during workouts, training or competition. These guidelines will be addressed in three phases. Movement through the three phases will be contingent on successfully meeting the challenges of each phase.

Seeing reduced spread of COVID-19 or no spread attributed to the time spent in organized sports is the ideal situation. This means that it is very important for our athletes, coaches and staff to follow these guidelines outside of these sporting activities also.

According to the SCHSL, schools can begin in Phase One, which comes with many restrictive guidelines. What is to be expected in Phase One of our return to sport? Many of the same guidelines you hear about from the CDC, SCDHEC and your local health care professionals will be implemented for this initial phase of return.

Athletes will work in small groups, nine athletes to one coach, so 10 people in a facility at a time. These groups will not change, so the same people are always around each other. This is important if an individual is diagnosed with COVID-19. We can trace which athletes they have been around easily and isolate one group if needed instead of 30 to 40 people.

Other guidelines include the following:

Each person will be screened for symptoms, and a temperature check will be taken prior to the start of each session. If people show symptoms, they will be isolated from the group and might need to see their health care provider.

Each person in the group will maintain a six-foot social-distancing space.

Every person will have a cloth face cover and will keep covered when not doing exertional activity.

Hand washing and hand sanitizer will be readily available. Each person should either their wash hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer before and after using equipment that will be used by another person.

Water and hydration stations will not be available. All athletes need to bring their own water each day. Water fountains, coolers or other stations will not be available for athletes to fill or refill any bottles.

All areas will be thoroughly sanitized before and after members of each group complete their session.

Athletes, coaches or staff with underlying conditions or living with someone who has these conditions might not be allowed to participate or might choose not to participate knowing there is a risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading to those who are at risk. Some of these conditions include diabetes, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, anyone who is immune-compromised, kidney disease undergoing dialysis, liver disease, obesity (having a BMI over 40), and being over 65 years old.

When considering these guidelines, the schools and school districts can implement their own restrictions to help keep their facilities safe.

Ideally, we would like to do most of the activities outdoors initially to give ample space to maintain social distancing. With this we must consider that we have enough areas to shelter in case of lightning or rain and continue to maintain our social-distancing space. Therefore, there will be a limited number of athletes on our campuses at one time. This may differ from school to school.

Guidelines for the first 10 workouts include no balls or sporting equipment being used. Once sporting equipment can be used, it can only be used by one person at a time. This means no shared balls can be used. Any work done with balls will be individual activity. These balls must be sanitized after use before the next person uses them.

With these restrictions, most of the activity probably will be strengthening and conditioning through phase one.

We hope that each school district allows the athletes to get back to some sort of activity. Return of sports gives us a sense of some return to normalcy. At this time there is no set timeline for when we can advance to the next stage.

There have not been specific guidelines shared for stages two and three. This is an evolving situation. Please, everyone, stay safe. Remember to maintain social-distancing space, use cloth face coverings when appropriate and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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