Schools in the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association are starting to put plans in place to protect athletes and coaches in their return to play sports.
Much of what several athletic directors discussed Tuesday at a meeting at the Honesdale Golf Club centered around response to the coronavirus pandemic and remaining positive through the early stages of the extensive guidelines set by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
“The monitoring and screening of the athletes and coaches is very important,” Scranton athletic director Ted Anderson said. “They are all itching to get back and they want to get back into the weight room, like yesterday. But, for right now, we have to be a little timid and very strict with our guidelines, because all it is going to take is one person getting sick and it could shutdown a school and the sports team.
“The safety of the kids is the priority. Coaches and kids will do whatever they can to get back, but I think we can take this slow. Initially, we need to get a really good plan in place for their safety.”
Athletic trainers Eric Keller and Carley Gustin provided a detailed presentation that outlined a protocol put together through joint meetings with representatives from Districts 6, 7 and 9. They also provided an example of a waiver students will sign to make everyone aware of the dangers of COVID-19.
Screening athletes and coaches by taking temperatures before each workout or practice is the main priority for athletic directors and school administrators.
The promotion of healthy hygiene practices such as hand washing, intense cleaning of all facilities, encouraging social distancing, and making sure athletes who are sick stay home were also part of the recommendations given to the athletic directors.
Others included regular communication regarding cases and possible exposures, the use of gloves, masks and eye protection when needed and situations warrant, identify staff and students who may be at higher risk and to have a plan for if a student or employee gets sick.
“Our big goal is to get kids to do as much as they can right now given these guidelines, while keeping them as safe and healthy as possible,” said Tom Nowakowski, who is athletic director and trainer at Mid Valley. “There are so many variables with these guidelines, things could change tomorrow. My plan that I am introducing to the board will emphasize the screening, the cleaning, the social distancing. These are the pillars we are not going to break away from. We have to be restrictive now, because if we are loose you can’t pull back the reins.
“We are going to roll this thing out and whatever hurdles we get thrown at us, we will try to clear and make it all work.”
As part of the presentation, sports were grouped into three risk levels, similar to guidelines issued by the National Federation of High School Associations. Among the fall sports, football falls under the high risk level with volleyball, field hockey and tennis in moderate risk, and golf and sideline cheer in low risk.
Hydration is also important during workouts and athletes must bring their own water bottles, so they should bring enough to fulfill their needs throughout the day.
Each school is responsible for creating their own protocols that suit their needs and Frank Majikes, president of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors and the District 2 chairman emphasized the importance of having them approved by school boards before athletes return to voluntary workouts.
The athletic directors and LIAA president Ron Collins agreed to meet again in July to discuss further developments and reaction of the organization as things evolve. Some issues that will need clarity will include transportation restrictions and costs, the possibility of a league only schedule, sub-varsity competitions and the success of the protocol implementation across the organization.
However, Collins emphasized to stay positive and work hard toward achieving the goals of returning to competition.
Joby Fawcett has covered high school sports — including football, girls and boys volleyball, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys swimming, boys basketball, girls and boys track and field, and girls and boys lacrosse — for 22 years. The High School Sports Blog offers deeper insights plus statistical and historical information for fans and features photos, videos and graphics along with Top 5 polls for tennis and volleyball. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5367; @sportsTT