Union Pines fall workouts 1

Union Pines football players go through no-contact, no-ball workouts, Aug. 6, 2020 at the practice field in Cameron, N.C. This was the second day of workouts under the new COVID-19 protocols mandated by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. In addition to football, other fall sports workouts included boys soccer, volleyball, and tennis. (Timothy L. Hale/Special to The Pilot)

As Moore County’s three public high schools began limited conditioning workouts for fall sports teams this week, the N.C. High School Athletics Association announced another delay for when games and competitions can begin.

As a result of Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision for the state to remain in phase two of its reopening plan until Sept, 11, the association (NCHSAA) said that “unfortunately” fall sports will not start Sept. 1 as was previously announced.

“We want to play sports during this upcoming school year and are making plans to do so,” Commissioner Que Tucker said in an email statement Thursday morning. “However, the health and safety of all participants, including coaches and other essential staff, will be a priority as decisions and plans are made.”

The NCHSAA staff and board will review all available options and seek input from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, N.C. Department of Public Instruction and a sports ad Hoc committee before releasing a calendar for playing sports during the upcoming school year. The association said it hopes to make an announcement prior to Aug. 17, which is the first day of school.

Moore County Schools allowed athletic workouts and performing arts activities such as marching band, to start last Monday. But that was delayed until Wednesday morning because of the possible impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias.

Normally, full practice for fall sports would begin Aug. 1, and teams could begin playing games Aug. 17. Fall sports include football, boys soccer, boys tennis, girls golf, and boys and girls cross country, along with cheerleading.

Each of the three high schools developed plans for workouts that adhere to NCHSAA safety guidelines.

“As with anything in life w have had to learn to control the controllables and to always be exhaustively committed to keeping both our athletes and staff members safe,” said Union Pines head football coach Lonnie Cox on the first day of workouts Wednesday. “Athletics and extracurricular activities not only promote the physical well-being of our student athletes, but also their mental health as well. There was much exicitement and a lot of smiles this morning.”

Activities are proceeding under phase one guidance issued by the NCHSAA. Activities at the middle school level are suspended until further notice.
Under phase one, athletic workouts to no more than 90 minutes and students’ temperatures must be checked daily along with symptom screening.

It requires extensive cleaning and infecting of facilities and equipment. The guidance also prohibits shared equipment, such as balls.
The school system also says student-athletes and band members are encouraged to work out and practice at home if they can do so safely. 

While Moore County is operating under phase one guidance, the NCHSAA gave the go-ahead July 30 for schools to move to the second phase, which allows the use of shared equipment, such as balls.

Pinecrest Athletic Director Jeff Hewitt said it would likely be after the first week of school before Moore County moves to the second phase. The NCHSAA said workouts will be suspended — called a “dead period” — the first full week students are back in class to allow them to focus on academics.

The NCHSAA had recommended that coaches at schools that have not participated in phase one “are strongly encouraged to ensure a gradual return to activities, considering the condition of students who may have been physically inactive this summer.”

The number of athletes allowed to participate in groups both outdoors and inside remains unchanged under the second phase, which took effect last Monday. Social distancing must also be maintained.

Groups must be limited to 25 people outside, including coaches and trainers, and 10 for indoor settings.

After announcing that it was moving into the second phase of its plan, the NCHSAA had earlier announced that the start of fall sports games and competitions would be delayed until at least Sept. 1 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though Tucker said at the time that it could be pushed back even further.

The Moore County school board’s decision July 21 to allow students to return to the classroom two days a week when schools open Aug. 17 cleared the way for sports teams to hold workouts on campus.

Under phase one, schools must have personal protection equipment, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes and digital thermometers available before workouts start.

If one individual is detected with COVID-19, everyone in that pod must self-isolate for 14 days.

Only conditioning and individual drills can be held and they can last only 90 minutes each day. Contact with another player is not allowed. Tackling dummies/donuts/sleds must be disinfected after every use.

Hewitt said each of the schools incorporated procedures for checking in students each day to maintain social distancing and properly screen them to ensure they do not have any symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has contracted the virus.

Coaches will be provided an infrared thermometer to check students’ temperature each day when they arrive.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

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