Pinecrest football practice

File photo of the first day of Pinecrest football practice in August 2019.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) announced Tuesday that it has approved moving into phase two of its plan for summer workouts that will allow use of shared equipment such as balls.

The number of athletes allowed to participate in groups both outdoors and inside remains unchanged under the second phase, which takes effect next Monday, Aug. 3. Social distancing must also be maintained.

This latest development comes as Moore County Schools contemplates allowing voluntary conditioning workouts for high and middle school fall sports teams to begin.

The NCHSAA allowed schools to begin phase one workouts June 15. But many school systems, including Moore County, decided to hold off allowing workouts to take place.

While the NCHSAA has moved ahead on the second phase of its plan, it 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 Commissioner Que Tucker said it could be pushed back even further.

That promoted Moore County Schools to announce that all summer athletic and extracurricular activites would be suspended until further notice.

In anticipation of eventually being allowed to start workouts, the county’s three public high schools developed plans on how to safely run a 90 minute workout that would adhere to NCHSAA guidelines once the central office gives the official go-ahead.

The school board’s decision July 21 to allow students to return to the classroom two days a week when schools open Aug. 17 clears the way for sports teams to hold workouts on campus, which could happen Aug. 3. The board heard a presentation from Pinecrest athletic director Jeff Hewitt on plans for workouts to start.

Under phase two of the NCHSAA plan, wearing of protective equipment remains prohibited and equipment must be disinfected frequently. Disinfecting equipment is required between usage by different pods of athletes.

Other aspects of phase one remain unchanged, the association said.

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

According to the guidelines, there can be no more than 25 people, including coaches, managers and trainers, working out at one time in a group if it is outside. Only 10 are allowed in an indoor setting. 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.

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.

The NCHSAA said Monday 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.”

Additionally, the association said it is important to “teach” the daily monitoring protocol.

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.

Because of the extreme heat and humidity, the NCHSAA also said all coaches must follow all of its requirements to ensure student athletes are properly hydrated.

Hewitt said students will be asked to bring a one-gallon container of water with them each day since schools are not allowed to hand out water bottles or have shared water stations.

The NCHSAA said in the announcement Tuesday that its staff has worked with the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) on recommendations for member schools regarding summer activities that adhere to directives from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

It also reiterated that under the association’s policy, participation in summer activities is voluntary and cannot be required.

“The phase two guidance is intended to help you continue or begin to navigate a gradual reopening of high school sports, while helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” it said in an email. “The NCHSAA Board of Directors understands that implementation decisions schools make this summer regarding sports and other co-curricular activities will potentially impact the upcoming school year. Thus, it is important that you adhere to this current guidance.

“The staff, Board of Directors and SMAC remain committed to administering sports/activities this fall, provided it can be done safely and in accordance with guidance from our state educational and medical partners.”

The association said a decision on whether sports competitions can actually begin Sept. 1 will be announced later this month.

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

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