After a nearly three-month break, several more area high schools Monday got back on the grind for summer workout and conditioning programs. Meantime, coaches expressed optimism about the return of fall sports.
Palestine, Elkhart, Oakwood, and Cayuga all began workouts under the COVID-19 guidelines mandated by the University Interscholastic League.
With UIL restrictions still in place, it wasn't business-as-usual for coaches and players. Still, they were happy to reunite, working out for a season they hope will begin on time this fall.
“These guys are excited to be back," Palestine Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Lance Angel said. “These new norms are certainly something our athletes will have to get used to. But I'm confident we'll be prepared for fall sports.”
Roughly 140 athletes showed up between the two sessions put on by Palestine Monday morning, Angel said. Most of them embraced the intensity and energy they missed after sports shut down.
June 8 was the first day UIL schools could participate in summer workouts. Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) started the week prior. The UIL issued several COVID-related stipulations and guidelines schools must follow to hold summer strength and conditioning.
Coach Angel said the decision to delay the start of Palestine's summer workouts to June 15 was to ensure the school could thoroughly prepare for any restrictions.
"I think it's a dry run to see if we're going to be able to play sports when school starts back up," Coach Angel said.
Cayuga Athletic Director Cody Mohan echoed the excitement coaches statewide feel.
“It's a fun time for us,” Mohan said. “I was pleased with our turnout. I haven't seen some of these kids since before Spring Break. There's nothing like getting to see them in person.”
Mohan is optimistic about what summer workouts mean for high school sports, as schools move towards the fall season. UIL's loosening of restrictions is a hopeful sign, he said.
Last week, the UIL announced changes will be made to the guidelines that first went into effect last Monday.
Starting on June 22, teams may have 50 percent of their indoor capacity, up from the current 25 percent; the number of students working in outdoor groups will go from 15 to a maximum of 25. Indoor groups will increase from a max of 15 from 10.
The UIL also altered its wording in regards to cleaning equipment, saying those surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected before and after use. The initial guideline said that equipment must be thoroughly disinfected.
Westwood, Frankston, Grapeland, and Slocum were among the area high schools to reopen last week. Neches is set to begin its summer schedule this week, though Athletic Director Andy Snider said the school has not yet set an official date.