High school sports will begin in the form of volleyball, softball and cross country as if the season were taking place under normal circumstances. These programs, though, will have to follow Georgia High School Association guidelines for return and safe play as the coronavirus pandemic still presents itself.
Coaches and athletes alike are excited to return but know the situation is a serious one and proper safety precautions are necessary.
“I want to be sensitive to everything that is going on with health concerns, and it is necessary to take all of the precautions,” Walton volleyball coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “I know that our athletes and our program are hungry to get into the gym and be together.”
With practice scheduled to begin Aug. 1, the GHSA continues to suggest face coverings for players and coaches, with social distancing also practiced. However, it was announced Wednesday that the GHSA would no longer limit the number of athletes who can work out or play at one time. Teams will also be allowed to use shower and locker room facilities, provided they are sanitized after each use, athletes do not congregate and they dress in stages if necessary.
“I think there is a balance,” Fitzgerald said. “We are all trying to take the right steps and do the right thing as we look at the big picture as far as the mental and physical health of the athletes.”
Football was the only sport affected by the GHSA decision to delay the season by two weeks. The other fall sports were deemed lower-risk and will proceed as regularly scheduled.
Sports are often an outlet for high school students, and Kennesaw Mountain softball coach Lisa Chapman knows missing out on that time hurts.
“I think it is very important, especially with what they have gone through the last five months or so, missing out on being able to socialize and be around other adults and other peers their age,” Chapman said. “Young people need that to develop, and I think it is important for them to be back out there together.”
The coaches trust the guidelines provided by Cobb County and the GHSA. Programs are employing temperature checks and pre-practice symptom questionnaires as cautionary measures before practices.
“I trust that what guidelines have been set for us,” Chapman said. “To Cobb County, that we are doing the right thing and that we are taking precautions to try and keep everyone involved in a safe environment.”
The safe reopening of athletics is a priority for Fitzgerald and other Cobb County coaches. Fitzgerald said that sports are still in a fragile state, but she accepts the new responsibilities.
“I think it is an awesome opportunity to create some sense of normalcy in the midst of something that has just been such a crisis for everybody,” she said.