The county is phasing in practices for high school athletes.
For months, Sarasota athletes have wondered when they would be allowed back with their teams.
Next week, they can stop wondering and start practicing.
Sarasota County Schools has released its return to training plan for student-athletes. The plan will have them back on the field starting June 15, though there will be restrictions for a while longer.
In phase one, which runs June 15-26, conditioning workouts can be held outside for one hour, with no sport-specific equipment. Workouts are limited to four days a week, between 7-11 a.m. or 5-9 p.m. depending on the school, with no workouts on the weekend. Workout groups are limited to 10 people. These groups will remain the same each practice as to contain any potential virus spread. Depending on facility size, there can be several groups in the same facility. Athletes must all have their own water bottle and towel. No spectators are permitted.
Phase two, which runs June 29-July 10 reintroduces the use of weight rooms and gymnasiums. Teams can hold one hour of weight room work and one hour outside the weight room (either using the gym or conditioning outside) each day. Teams can begin using sport-specific equipment, though other safety rules still apply. Phase three runs July 13-24 and will allow teams to conduct up to three hours of workouts each day.
Plans are subject to change as the pandemic escalates or deescalates. Phase four, which start July 27, asks teams to follow the 2020-2021 Florida High School Athletic Association rules and regulations, as well as CDC guidelines. This is the date FHSAA fall sports are scheduled to begin workouts, and as of now, the fall sports season is on as scheduled, meaning football, golf, volleyball and swimming coaches can begin their push to get their athletes ready.
Riverview High football coach Josh Smithers said he is excited to see his players in person, though safety will remain the top priority. Summer workouts will not be mandatory, Smithers said, in case people do not feel comfortable returning to the field. Smithers said he believes the majority of his team will be out there, however.
"The tough thing is, we don't know much," Smithers said. "We don't know if it is too soon until we actually do it. We'll be taking every precaution. This isn't something where we tell kids, if they don't do 'X,' they won't play during the year. We get it.
"Workouts will be different. The biggest thing is going to be the weight room, that type of conditioning. We'll be behind where we usually are in that area because we're starting it later. Our concern is, will guys be able to make it through a long season, especially if we reach the playoffs? It will have some effect, but we don't know the degree."
Smithers also thanked Sarasota County Schools, specifically James Slaton, the county's athletics and physical education supervisor, for taking the time to conduct research and present a comprehensive plan instead of rushing one and having to amend it later.
Meanwhile, at Cardinal Mooney High, a group of 40 Cougars began workouts at 8 a.m. Monday. Mooney, too, is taking precautions, including having their temperature taken daily and wearing a mask when arriving and leaving. It is part of a two-phase return to training that differs between individual sports.
“It felt good to be with the team again and with the new coaches,” Mooney football junior Beau Christensen said. “The energy out on the field was great and since we were outside, no one came in contact with each other so I felt safe with
the changes in place.”