School gates will open Monday morning and hibernation will come to an end for local high school athletes.
South Effingham and Effingham County high schools have plans in place for voluntary summer workouts in accordance with the Georgia High School Association (the governing body for high school sports in the state) and the school district.
The goal is to keep athletes preparing for the 2020-2021 season safe from the COVID-19 virus.
Schools have been closed since March 16 and spring sports seasons came to an abrupt end because of concerns of getting or spreading the deadly coronavirus.
Neither the Mustangs nor Rebels held spring football workouts so coaches aren’t sure what to expect athletically.
“We just need to get the boys back and get them back in shape,” SEHS football coach Nathan Clark said. “We’re excited just to be around them again and be part of their lives.”
ECHS football coach Buddy Holder had similar thoughts.
“I think we’re all getting a little tired of the virtual meetings,” Holder said. “We haven’t had our kids for the last two months. We’ll really have to be patient getting them ready.”
For the initial phase of reopening, workouts will consist of weightlifting inside and running and agility work outside. GHSA rules restrict groups of more than 20 (including instructing coaches) working out at one time. Clark said his football players will lift in the weight room before going outside for agility work.
While athletes are outside, coaches will have a chance to sanitize the weight room for the next incoming group of 20.
When one group finishes, it must leave campus before another group of 20 can enter.
The head coach and strength coach can stay to monitor the workouts but will be counted as part of the 20.
SEHS athletic director Jeff Faith estimated between 200 and 225 Mustang athletes could be working out each day. That means a lot of extra work for coaches and budgets will be stretched purchasing additional cleaning supplies.
“You don’t really plan for buying hand sanitizer, wipes and mops. It’s a little tough,” Faith said.
Additional chores start before the first weight is lifted. Athletes’ temperatures will be taken prior to entering school and after they leave.
Any athlete showing signs of the coronavirus will be asked to quarantine.
“It’s a scary time for coaches because you don’t want to get anyone infected,” Holder said. “We always preach to our kids to block out outside distractions and be mentally tough and get better. These are times when coaches will have to be mentally tough too.”
Clark envisions a slow process unfolding during the initial reopening. Hopefully, if the first phase goes without a hitch, the GHSA will allow practices to include a ball in the next phase, he says.
“It’ll probably be a month before we really get after it,” Clark said. “We just have to be patient and adjust and sometime in the near future our focus will be on football. I feel we’ll be just fine.”
The football season isn’t too far away. South Effingham opens with Beaufort (S.C.) High on Aug. 21 at the Corral.
Effingham County is on the road at Beaufort High to kick off its season on Aug. 28.