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Local High School sports teams will be allowed to conduct summer workouts

AMERICUS – While things have not totally returned to what most people would call “normal”, life in Georgia is slowly moving in that direction. About a month ago, Governor Brian Kemp allowed certain businesses in Georgia to reopen their doors and now, according to published reports; the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has made the decision to allow high school sports teams to begin preparations for their upcoming 2020 seasons by allowing them to begin voluntary summer workouts on Monday, June 8.

For our local high school football teams who were not able to conduct their normal spring practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is welcomed news.

“Right now, our football program is working in coordination with our athletics director Coleman Price and district leaders to establish a plan that will allow our athletes to return safely,” Americus-Sumter head football coach Ross Couch said. “GHSA has presented the logistical requirements for safe return as soon as June 8 and our plan will be following those guidelines. We are excited to get our players back on campus and we are excited to be able to work together again, but our primary focus is the health and safety of our student-athletes and coaches.”

According to published reports, the GHSA Board of Trustees recently had a virtual meeting to discuss the proposed guidelines. At that meeting, some argued for a June 1 date to allow teams to begin restricted summer conditioning, but in the end, it was determined that Monday, June 8, would be the best time to allow all high school sports teams to begin voluntary summer workouts while following the COVID-19 guidelines.

According to published reports, GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines stated that Governor Kemp gave a “thumbs up” to the June 8 proposal.

Americus-Sumter Head Football Coach Ross Couch will be going into his second year as the Panthers’ head coach. He is excited about the fact that his team will be allowed to put in work during the summer to get ready for the upcoming season.
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Numerous strict COVID-19 guidelines will have to be followed during the summer workouts. As part of those guidelines, students and coaches will have to be screened upon arriving at the facility. They will be asked questions about their health, including if they have had a cough, a fever, or if they have been exposed to the virus.

Workout groups will be limited to 20 athletes and coaches per sport at a time. These groups are to remain consistent in order to limit possible exposure to COVID-19. There must also be a 15-minute intermission period between group workout sessions in order to allow for time to disinfect the facility.

In addition, all locker rooms, showers, drinking fountains and all sport-specific equipment will be off limits and student-athletes must bring their own water bottles. No visitors will be allowed and there are to be no scrimmages with other schools. Weight equipment must be cleaned prior to each workout and sanitized before use by each student and hand sanitizer should be plentiful and readily available. These voluntary summer workouts are meant for conditioning only and no balls or any other sport-specific equipment is allowed.

Since the COVID-19 shutdown began in mid March, students have had to attend to their studies at home and student-athletes have had to perform their workouts at home as well.

“I have weights at the house that I use so I really have just been using my weights at home,” Americus-Sumter running back Christian Waymon said. Waymon went on to say that he has also been going outside and performing individual football drills to get ready for his senior season.

Schley County Head football Coach Darren Alford is seen here addressing his team after the first day of spring practice last year. There was no spring practice this year, but Alford is looking forward to having his team out on the field for summer workouts.
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With the GHSA’s decision to allow summer workouts to begin June 8, student-athletes will finally get to experience some sense of normalcy, which is something they haven’t known for the last three months. “It feels great because I know that we need to get back to work and get back right,” said Waymon. He went on to say that he and the rest of his teammates are ready to get back to work with their coaches like they usually do.

While players and coaches are excited to get back to work, there will still be some things that they will have to get use to as far as the guidelines are concerned.

“We have basically done very little during the quarantine. I have posted workouts for the kids on various media outlets and I have tried to make sure that the kids were doing their school work so they could keep on course to graduate “, Schley County head football coach Darren Alford said. “We will start our workouts on June 8. It will be good to get them back into the weight room and on the field to run. We cannot use a football during June or football-related practice equipment, so we will focus on Strength and conditioning. We will try to do some chalk talk with each group. There are many restrictions and guidelines that we have to follow to make sure that everyone is safe. We will have three or four groups that we will work Monday through Thursday in June. I am excited to see the kids again on a regular basis and we are going to be strict in following GHSA guidelines, but it will be nice to be back on the field getting in shape to play football again soon.”

Southland Academy, a member of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA), is not subject to GHSA rules. However, according to Athletic Director Clint Humphrey, the school is considering beginning voluntary summer workouts on June 8 as well. “Since we are independent and the GISA doesn’t have summer guidelines (outside of when football can go full pads), Southland is discussing now what we will do,” said Humphrey. “We are leaning towards June 8 as well. We will make that decision this week.”

Southland Academy quarterback/defensive back Nathan Duke will be a senior this fall. Duke, along with the rest of the Raiders, is looking forward to getting back on the field with summer workouts.
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Nathan Duke, who doubles as a quarterback and defensive back for the Raiders, told the Americus Times-Recorder that he’s been trying to stay in shape at home by at first doing things like push ups and then gradually increasing his work load to include more running to get his body into shape. According to Duke, he and his teammates have been told by their coaches that summer workouts will start sometime in June. “When we first start back, we will have our struggle no doubt. Our coaches have done a great job of sending us at-home workouts each day to make sure we were staying in shape and doing what we were suppose to be doing so the transition should not be bad,” said Duke. “My teammates and I can’t wait to get out there and be together. We are excited to get more physical and put even more energy into preparing for the upcoming season.”

Schley County quarterback/middle linebacker Jarrett Long will be a senior this fall. Long and his fellow Wildcat teammates are looking forward to getting back on the field to begin the preparation for the upcoming 2020 season.
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For Schley County quarterback/middle linebacker Jarrett Long, who will be a senior this fall, being able to get back on to the field with his teammates is welcomed news. “I’m glad we can finally get back to working together. We got a lot of good, young players that need to learn the system and how we do stuff at Schley County,” said Long. “We are going to be a little behind, but so is everyone else. I think everyone missed football so it’s really good to be back and to see and practice with the team again.”

While things are not fully back to what they were before the pandemic started, the fact that the GHSA is allowing its high school athletes to begin on-field workouts is a sign that life is moving in the right direction. The student-athletes can finally return to some sense of normalcy and familiarity. Perhaps this is a sign that the rest of life will eventually do the same.