Bayside Conference high school athletic directors have met weekly for over a month discussing a possible return to sports.
While not every school was represented every time, the virtual meetings provided a convenient way for athletic directors to share ideas and stay on the same page. With little guidance from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, that pooled knowledge has been important.
And while the conference does not have a unified approach to returning, Caroline, Kent, Talbot, Queen Anne’s and Wicomico are among the counties that have allowed volunteer offseason conditioning sessions to begin this week outdoors. Dorchester County has yet to set a date on when it will allow offseason conditioning.
“What we’re doing is not very different from what we’ve done in the past,” said Queen Anne’s athletic director Dave Wagner, who noted the school sent details to parents last Thursday about workouts, which began yesterday. “It’s mainly cheer and football, and then a couple other coaches have gotten involved, like Shana Corder from field hockey and Kesley Fitzgerald from girls’ lacrosse. We’re taking a limited number of kids in each group to try to do some offseason conditioning. So it’s really just fitness-based, it’s all social distanced, it’s all outside.”
The conditioning sessions will be held strictly outdoors. None of the nine North Bayside schools are opening their weight rooms for the time being. Conditioning will basically consist of running agility ladders, cones and wind sprints.
Each county is setting its own limits in terms of the number of people — athletes and coaches — allowed per group.
Caroline and Kent County are limiting groups to 15, which could include 14 players and one coach. Talbot is allowing 20, according to Easton athletic director Kurisha Hoffman. Schools are permitted to have more than one group conditioning at a time, but there will be plenty of distance between how many number of groups there are on a certain day.
“The Bayside Conference decided we were going to stick together as a group as much as possible, so no one’s running around going, ‘Well, why did Queen Anne’s start here and we can’t start until whenever?’” Kent County athletic director Kevin Taylor said. “So we kind of stuck together.
“We’re not allowed in the building,” Taylor continued. “So it’s all outdoor conditioning. At this point you’re not allowed to do sports specifics, so there shouldn’t be any footballs being tossed around at practice, or soccer balls being kicked or anything like that.”
And while schools are opening their campuses for conditioning, they are still taking precautionary measures in an effort to be safe against COVID-19 concerns.
Easton, which is scheduled to begin conditioning today, informed parents and student-athletes through a letter that athletes must complete and turn in the new COVID physical questionnaire. If a student has tested positive for COVID, they must provide release documentation from their doctor.
Athletes at Easton must also wear a mask when arriving and departing, as well as when they are participating in group activities such as receiving instructions.
Official practices are scheduled to begin on August 12. That date could be in jeopardy because of COVID-19 concerns, as the MPSSAA has the ability to alter the length and durations of seasons.
Wagner was unsure when a decision to delay the start of practices would have to be made.
“We’re obviously waiting on some additional guidance from the state,” Wagner said. “The other thing to keep in mind is that school systems don’t need to turn in their plans for the upcoming school year until August 14. So we’re in a bit of a tricky situation right now where we are kind of the front-runner of getting kids back engaged in anything on campus. So our mentality right now is to take it slow, see what works, and then continue to build based on success and our experience as we keep going.”
Follow Seth Tow on Twitter @SethTow. Email Bill Haufe at email@example.com.