While the news about strength and conditioning and sport-specific instructional activities being able to resume on a limited basis starting June 8 was welcomed, Sealy head football coach/athletic director Shane Mobley said the emphasis will be on the safety of the student-athletes.
“The most important thing is we keep the kids safe,” Mobley said in a May 28 phone interview. “I know they're going to want to come up here and get after it but it's going to be different for them, so I had to make sure that each one of the coaches knows the rules and the guidelines and what we're going to do.”
In the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic, the UIL shut down athletic activities April 17 and later instituted online instruction guidelines. When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced his reopening plans allowed professional sports to resume without fans May 31, the UIL released guidelines for returning to activity at the high school level, starting with strength and conditioning and sport-specific instruction.
Among the restrictions, the UIL established that strength and conditioning can be no more than two consecutive hours per day during the week and no more than once per day. Sports specific instruction should not exceed 90 minutes per day with any more than 60 minutes per day in a given sport during the week, the UIL said.
Mobley and Sealy ISD Athletics released a May 28 statement, emphasizing a handful of the UIL’s restrictions which can be found in full on their website. Atop the list from Sealy ISD Athletics was that if an athlete has shown symptoms of COVID-19 in the previous two weeks, they should not attend. Moreover, student-athletes are to screen themselves as well as their family/household members.
“First of all, the kids have to do a self-evaluation, coaches have to do a self-evaluation,” Mobley said. “Kids have to go home and talk to the parents and ask ‘Do you have any of the symptoms; do you have a steady cough or shortness of breath,’ and if somebody in the family does, they can't come up here. It doesn't just have to be the kids, it's their family too and we have to do that as coaches.”
Mobley said the coaching staff will also be keeping an attendance sheet but not so much to keep track of who shows up but to have a trace of who a student-athlete was with if he or she ends up showing symptoms.
“If we have ten kids in one group and we have one kid that shows up and they start having symptoms, that whole group, including the coach that's going to be assigned to them, they won't come back for however many days,” Mobley said. “That's why we’ve got to make sure that we keep everybody going in one direction so each group doesn't cross each other.”
The Tigers’ head football coach said groups of athletes will be spread out at different campuses but will not be able to share drinking water or food nor will they have access to locker room and shower facilities. Mobley also said the groups of football players working on sport-specific instruction were created strategically.
“In the mornings when we do our workout, we'll put our receivers our corners and safeties in a group,” the coach said. “That might be two different groups right there, that way if we had to isolate one group, we're not worried about an offensive lineman lifting with a secondary guy and now that just throws everybody out of the loop so there's a lot of organization to all this stuff that we want to make sure that we stay on top of.”
Also created strategically, Mobley said, were the timings of the workouts to not only allow multi-sport athletes to get sport-specific instruction in more than one sport, but to also allow time to clean in between the high school and junior high workouts.
From June 8 to July 31, male high school athletes will have strength and conditioning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the middle school before the junior high athletes’ workout from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the junior high. They will also have a second session from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for sport-specific instruction. Female high school athletes will have both strength and conditioning and sport-specific instruction available at the high school from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., also from June 8 and July 31.
Mobley understands, however, the first couple of weeks will be more of a warmup period to get athletes back in their rhythm after nearly 12 weeks without in-person instruction.
“The first two weeks we're probably not even going to hit weights,” Mobley said. “We're going to come back and do more stretching, do more stuff outside to get our legs back underneath us. That type of mentality for the first two weeks, more push-ups, body squats, abs, just start from the basics.”