AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese preached patience and understanding to coaches when players return for voluntary workouts on Monday for the first time since schools were closed due to COVID-19.
“We’re not back to normal,” Savarese said during a video conference Wednesday for AHSAA member schools and coaches. “It’s going to take you longer to do what you want to do and you are teaching a different way to do it.
“We encourage you to accommodate the students who are uncomfortable with returning. There are parents who are not ready to let their kids return to school. As you know, summer workouts are not mandatory, or under the jurisdiction of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
“Please, do not hold against any child, the time that they miss during the workouts because mom and dad weren’t ready for their kids to return.”
While optimistic about football returning this fall, Savarese also stressed that precautions taken now will likely be the determining factor.
“The actions that you take in trying to prevent the virus will not eliminate this risk, but by following these guidelines we’ll mitigate the risk,” Savarese said. “That should be our goal — to mitigate the risk — not only for our students, but for you the coach, you the administrator, and anyone else associated with your program.
“It’s a lot easier for us to open our schools than it will be to stay open. But I’m counting on you administrators, coaches and support staff, and your leadership, by following the Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines.
“If we do this, hopefully we’ll be able to have a normal fall season. But again, you’re leadership is vital as we make every attempt to provide the safest environment under the current health guidelines.”
Coaches are expected to wear masks around the students during the workouts and social distancing should be practiced within the groups.
“Any time you as a coach are around the kids, you should have a face covering,” Savarese said. “Remember, it’s not only protecting the students, it’s protecting you the coach as you go through this process.
“You need to acclimate your students to these Department of Public Health guidelines — not come in the first day and see how much a player can lift again, but to teach them how to acclimate themselves to these guidelines.
“Remember to hydrate your kids, but when you hydrate them, they all should have their own water bottles. Encourage them to bring those because hydration is very important as you condition your students outside.
“Maintain physical distancing at all times. That’s a six-foot circumference around every child. Clean, clean, clean. Clean equipment before use, clean equipment after use. Wash hands and do all the cleanliness that you can possibly do.”
While workouts can resume, there will be no practices against other teams — such as 7-on-7 scrimmages — allowed during the preseason.
“First we need to learn to live with the virus,” Savarese said. “Second, we’re going to get our kids physically healthy before we get ready to compete again. And lastly, hopefully we’ll be able to continue a formal fall schedule beginning July 22.
“We will continue to look at current data and will communicate with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the State Department of Education, the CDC and other agencies to update you when necessary.”
Savarese wouldn’t speculate on whether fans will be allowed to attend games this fall.
“We don’t have a crystal ball for what the future holds,” Savarese said. “But I do know if we do what’s expected of us over the next eight weeks, we have a far greater chance of having fans in the stands than we do if we don’t (follow guidelines).
“If we adhere to these guidelines and go out of our way to make sure that we teach our students how to follow these and practice these, then I believe we will have a much better chance of returning to normal.”
Multi-sport athletes will be permitted to work out with different teams, but should follow safety guidelines.
“If you’re a multi-sport athlete and you change groups within the same day, then you must make sure you practice all sanitary means by getting clean,” Savarese said. “We recommend you change your clothes and wash your hands before you go to another sport.”