Athletes Practice Social Distancing at Summer Workouts

Senior Josh Martin works out in the weight room.

Amara Shanks

Senior Josh Martin works out in the weight room.

For junior Connor Crayton and the varsity football team, the summer months are filled with early mornings on the field and in the weight room. This summer, however, has looked a bit different than normal with all of the new COVID-19 restrictions. Strength and conditioning programs were allowed to continue despite new protocols and rules that were put in place to reduce the risk of infection. 

“The coaches did a good job making sure we had face masks every day and keeping us 6 feet apart,” Crayton said. “I was never worried about getting COVID at practice. There were many precautions in place during workouts to keep us healthy.”

Many new rules and policies were implemented to ensure athletes’ safety throughout the summer. Masks and social distancing were required as well as the implementation of sanitary procedures by coaches for each piece of equipment as each player used it. Contact between athletes was also limited, with lifting racks assigned to individual athletes. 

“By checking in every day, we were able to make sure everyone who was working out was healthy,” Crayton said. “The players that were sick weren’t given a chance to infect the rest of us because they were sent home.” 

Each morning athletes were required to complete a thorough health screening before they were allowed to workout. In this screening, the players were asked questions to assess their health. These questions included asking them if they had a fever, had they been in contact with anyone who has had symptoms, and did they themselves have any symptoms. Coaches also recorded each athlete’s temperature as they checked in each day. Anyone with an abnormal temperature was automatically sent home to prevent transmission to the other athletes. Senior, Josh Martin, was personally affected by the virus as one of the members of his workout group contracted the virus. 

“During the third week of workouts, one of the members of my workout group got COVID. The policy put in place made everyone in the group stay home, despite being completely healthy,” Martin said. “This was upsetting because I felt like I fell behind in workouts because of someone else’s lack of responsibility.” 

At the start of strength and conditioning, each athlete was given a colored wrist band. This band signified the specific group the athlete was assigned to workout in. Athletes traveled to different stations with their groups and only touched equipment that was designated to their group. This eliminated the possibility of cross-contamination with other groups. This policy allowed the majority of the team to continue working out even when an athlete contracted COVID. 

“I feel like the team got a lot closer because of the events this summer,” Martin said. “Going through hardships gives you a different kind of bond and a different level of respect for those who endured those challenges with you.”

It is not just the players who have been affected by the virus, coaches and trainers have also had to adapt to this new way of life. Instead of just coaching the players about the game of football, the coaching staff has had to teach players how to stay safe amidst the pandemic. 

“We’ve had to change our thinking on almost everything we do logistically to keep kids and coaches socially distant. We are constantly washing hands and sanitizing equipment,” Coach Joe Martin said. “Every aspect of our workout has been adjusted to keep kids and coaches safe while abiding by all the CDC guidelines.”

Hand sanitizer is given to every player after each station of the workout, and the equipment is given a wash with a disinfectant spray. For one week during the summer the coaches moved the weight room equipment outside so that the players could lift while abiding by the CDC guidelines. These guidelines have since been relaxed and the players have been allowed back into the weight room.    

For Coach Martin, “the hardest part by far has been not being able to high five, shake a player’s hand, or give a hug to all of the players we weren’t able to see for so long.” 

Instead of just treating injuries this summer, Doc Bri Rojas has had to switch gears to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“One of the major challenges in our routine was having to check in all of the athletes and coaches before each session,” Rojas said. 

The first day of practice was originally scheduled for Aug. 3, but the UIL has postponed it until Sept. 7, with the first game Sept. 25 at Vernon Newsom.