With days growing longer and patience growing shorter, school districts statewide have begun establishing dates and parameters for high school athletes to return to their respective campuses, with essentially no guidance from the state.
That guidance is forthcoming.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted Tuesday to establish a set of considerations for schools as they reopen campuses for voluntary conditioning. The considerations, expected to be distributed in a week, will be established in conjunction with the state organization’s sports-medicine advisory committee.
They are not requirements, only recommendations.
“Personally, I think it’s too late. I think that these things should’ve been in place at least a month or two ago, because schools are already in summer,” said Plant athletic director Lauren Otero, the board president-elect who has developed a list of recommendations that will be shared with the committee.
“And schools are already doing things because they have taken it upon themselves to make decisions ... because they have not had guidance provided to them.”
Locally, three counties — Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas — will allow athletes to return to campus for supervised voluntary workouts starting Monday. Pasco athletes return July 1.
They’ll have updated heat safety measures to observe when they begin that training.
The board unanimously passed new guidelines requiring schools to measure each day’s heat stress with wet bulb globe thermometers. Based on a given day’s readings, practices may have to be cut short, modified to include more water breaks, or moved indoors or called off.
The new measures arrive nearly a year to the day after Middleton High incoming freshman Hezekiah B. Walters died following conditioning drills last summer.
“I’ve been through this in Georgia as a coach; there will be cancellations, but there are not a tremendous amount of them,” said outgoing board president Bobby Johns, athletic director at Wewahitchka High.
“There will be a lot of modifications. It was an adjustment period for me going into that situation, but it was not a debilitating situation for us as coaches.”
In addition to the summer-workout considerations, the board agreed to assemble a task force to develop a strategic plan for the fall. Whether the fall sports season commences on time remains unclear as the coronavirus crisis lingers, affecting some areas of the state far more significantly than others.
“I don’t know that we can make that decision yet,” Johns said in reference to whether football season begins on time. “We’ve just got to make sure that process is moving forward, and plans are in place once we have some more information and do know.”
In a move likely to generate state-wide applause, the board voted to establish a “six-quarter” rule for football, allowing a player to compete in a junior varsity game on Thursday and varsity game the following night. The policy, endorsed for years by Florida coaches, will assist smaller schools (or foundering large schools) that struggle to field JV and varsity programs.
Florida had been among only nine states that do not allow players to compete in more than one football game a week. Schools must apply for the six-quarter rule by Week Three of the regular season.
Elsewhere, the board approved making sand volleyball a recognized sport starting in 2021-22. It also voted to establish a division for girls wrestling, effective that same year. Girls still could compete against boys in the regular season, but would have to wrestle in the girls division during the state series.