NEW ALBANY - Sports are now back or in the process of coming back here in New Albany and Union County as local schools were given the green light to resume activity on June 1.
Football teams at New Albany, East Union and Myrtle can now conduct weight lifting and conditioning while basketball teams from those schools plus Ingomar and West Union can also take part in those on the hardwood.
New Albany soccer teams also plan to conduct training in a modified setting after June 1. Coach Caryl Vogel will send his boys soccer teams out on the pitch for workouts on June 2.
"We are going to ensure the safety of our players and coaches is at the forefront of our training this summer," Vogel said. "We will be limiting our participants to a maximum of 29, each player will have their temperature taken before practice, and we will follow social distancing measures during training. For soccer, luckily we don’t use our hands as much as other sports."
No high school teams will be allowed to play other teams in athletics or any activity this summer per the MHSAA's return to activity guidelines that were published on May 21. Inter-team play will not return until school returns in the fall.
"Once we are able to resume full training with a ball we will be able to do a lot of individual training, patterned play, and zonal games that will follow CDC Guidelines," Vogel said. "For the first two weeks we will incorporate body weight exercises and work outs, while mixing in light conditioning for acclimating our athletes.
"In addition, only the coach will be allowed to touch the cones, and field items. Each player will have a specified area for them to store their stuff that will be coned off six feet apart to ensure social distancing measures are met."
Another stipulation for the return to play include the mandate that "All practices, workouts, skill development, weightlifting, conditioning and rehearsals shall be considered voluntary for student athletes and activities participants."
The MHSAA goes into further detail regarding that by saying "No student shall be punished or restricted from participation in future and/or current activities due to non-participation in offseason activities as a result of parental/guardian restrictions or personal/medical reasons. School districts, athletic directors and coached must recognize each student has different circumstances that may create an unreasonable risk for him or her to participate."
Some of the general recommendations in the guidelines are as follows: "Summer activities should focus, in order, on acclimation, reintroduction to high level exercise and training in sport-specific activities. All activity resumption must follow national, state, local and MHSAA Covid-19 guidelines. It is the organizing coach's responsibility to monitor and follow these guidelines."
The MHSAA also requires that there be access and availability of hand-washing facilities, hand sanitizer and cleaning materials provided.
All schools will also work with their athletic medical staff or with state/local medical personnel to develop a plan should there be any ill or suspected Covid-19 athletes.
The acclimatization period is broken down into two categories - Days 1-7 and days 8-14.
In the opening period of 1-7 days, athletes are limited to one practice per day and the total practice time must not exceed two hours for that day. Also, intensity levels must be reduced to 50 percent of conditioning levels pre-Covid-19.
During the second phase of 8-14 days, the intensity level may increase to 75 percent with an intent to reach full intensity by day 14. Double practices are allowed for multi-sports athletes during this period, however, practice times are not to exceed three hours total for the day and must have an interval of three hours in a cool environment between sessions.
Group sizes for both indoor and outdoor practices/workouts must follow those gathering guidelines which apply locally or through the Mississippi State Department of Health. It is recommended that coaches divide their sports teams into smaller groups and utilize different time intervals to restrict the gathering size issues.
The MHSAA also stated that the guidelines could be updated whenever further information becomes available.
"We are looking forward to getting the boys back on the field, returning to a bit of normalcy, and prepare for what we hope is a special year," Vogel said.