High school athletic offseason workouts resumed over the last two weeks throughout the area and so far things have been running smoothly.
Two weeks ago, Warren County and Skyline resumed workouts with the Shenandoah County schools and Sherando following last week. The Virginia High School League announced last month that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes could do workouts and conditioning as long as each school division came up with a plan and guidelines and submitted it to the Department of Education.
Central Athletic Director Justin Broughman said that he’s been pleased with the turnout for the workouts. He said last week they had 60 kids on the first day, 43 on the second day and 55 on the third day.
“We’ve been pretty consistent with teams coming in, getting hour, two-hour workouts,” Broughman said. “It’s been great to see the kids coming in, I’ll tell you. It’s like breathed new life into me having them walk in, even with all the precautions that we’re taking – the screenings and temperature checks and distancing and workouts and sanitizing stuff. It’s just nice to have kids back in the building.”
Broughman said they have been having workouts on Mondays-Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, sideline cheerleading, volleyball, boys basketball have workouts with football, girls basketball and competition cheerleading on Mondays and Wednesdays.
He said he’s been pleased with how they’ve handled the difficult situation.
“They’ve been adhering to the guidelines,” Broughman said. “The kids understand that as soon they walk in, I’m going to ask them a bunch of questions about their health and take their temperature. The ones that have been here they know what to expect, everybody’s got their own ball for basketball, their own hoop, everybody’s got their own ball for volleyball.”
Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Mike Lenox said that football workouts, which have been held outside only, have gone well and they have had about 20-25 kids at each one. Lenox said that things have gone well with all of the sports that have done workouts and he’s had about 65 physicals, which have to be done before an athlete can participate in a workout, turned in.
“Kids are ready to do things, parents are getting things done,” Lenox said.
Warren County Athletic Director Ed Dike said cross country, volleyball and football have all started workouts and sideline cheer is starting this week. He said wrestling has also been doing some conditioning drills and he thinks girls basketball will be starting workouts soon.
Dike said that they have had 20-30 players out for football workouts, twice a week and 17 or 18 for volleyball workouts. He said cross country has had 12-20 for each workout.
Strasburg Athletic Director Matt Hiserman said that they have taken things slowly. He said the football team held workouts last week, but didn’t hold any this week due to some of the football coaches being out of town. He said the golf team has also been practicing at Blue Ridge Shadows in Front Royal, but so far that’s the only sports that have participated in workouts.
The VHSL will decide the fate of fall sports at a meeting on Monday, and Hiserman said he expects more of his teams to start doing workouts after that.
“Boys basketball, girls basketball were going to do some stuff and then they just decided to wait and see when seasons are actually going to start, and kind of put a plan together after that,” Hiserman said. “Some of them are hoping that the VHSL will release a Phase 3 guidelines which allows you to do a little bit more in open workouts if we decide to push seasons back.”
One thing that has been decided by the VHSL is there will be no football in the fall. Dike said that makes their numbers for football workouts more impressive.
“They’re out here at 8:30 at night and they’re working hard during the middle of the heat,” Dike said. “I think it’s awesome.”
Even if the VHSl decides to postpone the start of any season until Decemeber, which is the likely decision, the athletes will be allowed to do workouts, conditioning and weight lifting as long as Virginia is in Phase 2 or Phase 3 of Governor Ralph Northam’s ‘Forward Virginia’ plan.
Hiserman said that one thing that has to be decided in Shenandoah County is if students will be allowed to participate in workouts if they did not attend classes in person that day. Shenandoah County’s reopening plan calls for high school students to attend classes only one day a week and they have the option of learning virtually only.
Hiserman said that even if they can’t play any games until December the workouts will be good for the athletes for several reasons.
“Obviously, kids are out of shape,” Hiserman said. “They’ve been doing stuff on their own and doing some things, but all-in-all they’re going to be out of shape. They’re going to be weaker than what they were when they left here. So I think getting back in and getting a structure – kids really haven’t had a structure since March in any way shape or form. So I think giving those kids that structure again is a big part of it. And obviously there’s a lot more learned in athletics than just playing a game and learning a sport. You have the team camaraderie, the life lessons that are learned along the line. The bonds that are made amongst teammates and coaches and kids, and a lot of kids need that on a daily basis. They just haven’t had it.
“So hopefully going forward they can get back in there and be around each other some, and be around their friends, be around their coaches, and have that support system to get them to the next level that we want to get them to.”
Lenox said no matter what happens it’s important that the athletes will at least get a chance to be together in some way throughout the year.
“I think it will at least give them some hope and some normalcy, because you can have kids not come to school at all but come to practice and do those types of things after school,” he said. “So I think it still gives them some sort of normalcy and gives them some type of senior year, even though it’s not going to be near what it should be, at least it gives them something to work on and provide for them.”