It’s baby steps but James Barker will take it.
The first-year Chapmanville Regional High School football coach has set a plan into motion to get his Tigers back out onto the gridiron in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Follwing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s green light the WVSSAC announced a three-phase plan to get high school athletes back in shape and ready to go ahead of the three-week practice period in July and regular fall practices in August.
Phase One is set for June 11-19. During that time, athletes will be broken up into pods of 10 or fewer and will be permitted to meet with coaches for one hour per day. Those meetings must be outdoors.
Phase Two will begin immediately after, running from June 22 to July 3 and loosening restrictions. Up to 25 student athletes at a time will be allowed to participate. Indoor and outdoor practices will be allowed.
Phase Three is the three-week practice period itself, which has been delayed from it’s normal period in June. Several area counties — including Kanawha, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Jackson, Nicholas, Wayne, Fayette and Clay — are all scheduled for July 6-25. Cabell, Mingo and Monongalia are slated for July 13-31.
During that time no inter-school activities will be permitted, and that includes 7-on-7 football tournaments, which have become quite popular. Groups of 50 will be allowed in Phase Three with practice times expanding to three hours.
Chapmanville Regional football’s Re-Opening Plan for Phases 1-2 is as follows.
“Our objective is to maintain the health and well being of our student-athletes while getting the members of our team conditioned toward playing shape for the Three Week Practice Period (July 6-18). We will also follow the directions of the WVSSAC and Logan County Schools in the grouping of student-athletes and maintain proper social distancing guidelines and proper hygiene protocols during each phase of the re-opening process.”
The Tigers plan to work out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the WVSSAC’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 plan.
Pods 1 and 2 will arrive and workout at 5-5:45 p.m., while pods 3-4 will arrive and workout 6-6:45 p.m. Pods 5-6 will workout from 7-7:45 p.m.
“The way I interpreted it and others interpreted it is that this month of June we are just going to be conditioning,” Barker said. “It’s kind of like your off-season program but you just can’t go indoors. You can only work out 10 student-athletes in a pod. We have a plan in place on how we are going to do it. We are going to work out three days a week in Phase 1 and Phase 2, as long as we get county approval. The word I got is that they are going to approve it.”
Since the Tiger Stadium Field Turf surface is large, with ample room beyond the end zones leading up the track, players will be spread out into pods to observe social distancing.
“We are going to work two pods at a time and work different sides of the field,” Barker said. “They will be socially distanced six feet apart. We will just do some conditioning and some speed and agility drills. We’ll do that for 45 minutes.”
Barker said, however, players will not be allowed to use the locker room facilities during summer workouts.
“What’s going to be difficult for our players is that they won’t be able to dress in our locker room or any of our facilities,” he said. “We can’t allow they to currently be in there. So they have to arrive dressed. They have to bring their own drinks. We can’t provide water for them because of proper sterilization is concerned. When they report they have to have a mask. If they don’t have a mask we will provide one for them. We also have to do temperature checks and symptom checks. We are going to try to document everything to the best of our ability. Once they complete the workout they will have to leave immediately because we can’t have them hang around as much as I know they will want to do that.
“Once they leave the coaches have to sanitize any of the equipment that was used or touched by the players.”
Phase 2 will then kick in on June 22.
“In Phase 2 you can have no more than 25 all together and still working in those 10 person pods,” Barker said. “For us, it doesn’t make much sense to invite more kids to be there when we are still going to be doing some of the same conditioning and the same things, so we are still probably going to stick with the same Phase 1 protocols until we get to Phase 3.”
Phase 3, set to being on July 6 in many counties across the state, will then be the regular three-week summer practice period.
“When we get to July that’s when we are going to be doing more of the team stuff,” Barker said. “That’s when you see that we will be going back to normalcy so to speak. It won’t be exactly the same like we did last year but it’s closer to what we saw last year as normal practice.”
The three-week summer period leads schools right up to the start of preseason practice for fall sports, which is scheduled for Aug. 3 for football, soccer, cross country and golf across the state.