With fall high school sports still in limbo, the University Interscholastic League is taking a definitive step toward bringing high school sports back in the era of COVID-19.
On Monday, the UIL will permit member schools to begin limited summer strength and conditioning programs. Despite the UIL ruling, Palestine Athletic Director Lance Angel has delayed his school's start date to June 15.
Westwood, Frankston, and Grapeland will begin their summer workouts Monday, while Elkhart and Cayuga also will start on June 15, following high school graduation on June 13.
"I think it's a dry run to see if we're going to be able to play sports when school starts back up," Palestine Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Lance Angel said.
The league tentatively set Aug. 3 as the first date for mandatory fall practice, with Aug. 8 as the first-day contact is allowed.
In April, the UIL canceled all spring activities and state championships, after it prohibited in-person training between athletes and coaches in March. Remote and virtual instruction have been allowed.
“We want to make sure we're ready with all the restrictions and guidelines,” Angel said in explaining the June 15 start date for Palestine. “We didn't want to rush it and throw some workout out that we didn't feel like we were organized to do.”
The UIL has made summer workouts optional for students, as part of its rules for Summer Strength/Conditioning Programs & Sport Specific Skill Instruction.
Those guidelines restrict groups to a maximum ratio of 20 students per adult coach. They also urge schools to maintain the same groups throughout the summer to minimize the number of people who would have to isolate, if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
Workouts can be done indoors, but only at 25% capacity of the room.
Westwood will start its summer regiment with a 7 a.m. session. First-year Elkhart head football coach and athletic director Luke Goode announced via Twitter his program will put on three sessions a day, with 7 a.m. for incoming junior high athletes and 8 a.m. for high school athletes.
Grapeland will hold one session from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Frankston will have an 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. session, and a 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. session.
Coaches will remain cautious, however, with COVID cases still rising in East Texas.
“Our athletes have been out for a long time and we need to get them acclimated before Aug. 3,” Angel said. “But our biggest concern is the health and safety of the kids. We want to make sure we're doing what we need to do to prevent them from getting anything.”