Lima area high schools prepare to bring back athletes

By Jose Nogueras -

High school doors were opened up for athletes to resume training at schools for non contact outdoor sports beginning Tuesday but most area schools did not begin this week and are still preparing and implementing guidelines and plans before allowing individuals to participate in practices.

In collaboration with the Gov. Mike DeWine who allowed for non contact sports to resume at the beginning of this week, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) sent out to high schools recommendations concerning the return of athletes that would involve three phases.

St. Marys was one school that opened practice to ninth grade football and its boys soccer team according to Twitter but a number of schools such as Lima Senior, Lima Central Catholic, Bath and Wapakoneta are all in the process of putting together procedures and plans in action in order to get their athletes back to practicing.

In an email, Bath athletic director Cam Staley stated, “We most likely will not be opening our campus facilities until Monday, June 1st. We want to make sure we have a clear picture of the protocols that need to be put in place and meet with all of our head coaches.”

John Zell, Lima Senior athletic director, said he expects to open the doors June 1 and has been diligently working with coaches and trainers to insure the safety of the students that he said is the school’s primary concern.

“We are going to follow the guidelines set up by the Ohio Department of Health and the OHSAA and focus on social distancing and hygiene and make sure everything is clean before, during and after activities,” Zell said. “I think there will be an influx of people wanting to do something. Our kids have been cooped up with no activities so we are going to have to manage it and make sure every one is doing good.”

Phase 1 that is recommended by the OHSAA stipulates that all coaches and students should be screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout that includes temperature checks. Also, responses to screening questions should be recorded and stored for contact tracing purposes if a COVID-19 infection occurs and vulnerable individuals should not oversee or participate in any workouts during Phase One.

As for gatherings it is recommended that they should not consist of more than 10 people at a time (inside or outside) to include all participants and coaches. Workouts should be be conducted in “pods” of students with the same 5-10 people and smaller pods should be used for weight training.

Social distancing of keeping a distance of at least 6 feet is to be done and the number of individuals in the room should be decreased until proper social distancing can occur.

Locker rooms should not be used during Phase One and students should report to workouts in proper gear and immediately return home to shower at the end of the workout.

Also included in Phase One are recommendations cleaning facilities and the usage of athletic equipment.

Phase One will go for 14 days.

Once a school clears Phase One and there is a downward/flat trajectory of documented cases at the school within 14 days a school can progress to Phase Two that has many of the same restrictions. However, one major change is the gatherings outside can be increased up to 50 people for workouts.

Phase Two also lasts 14 days and then Phase Three kicks in that allows for a shorter screening process and gatherings of up to 50 individuals, indoors and outdoors, can resume.

Lima Senior students will sign waivers if they want to participate.

“None of this is mandatory and if they do not feel safe they are not required to be here,” Zell said. “We have a waiver for the parents to sign. We are really focusing on the social distancing. They have what they have in all the phases what is called a pod where it is one coach and nine players, and they want that them to work out with each other the first 14 days.”

Zell adds this helps with tracing if someone does test positive and if an individual does test positive they will be sent home immediately.

“We do have all the hand sanitizer and sensitization sprays,” Zell said. “We are doing the pre-screening checks. We are getting the no touch thermometers and take their temperatures as they come in and ask them if they have any symptoms and if they do we are going to ask them to leave.”

Zell said in addition to following these phases that they are are also setting up guidelines for actual baseball and softball games being played. These would be non sanctioned games against other area high school teams.

“Pick-up games,” Zell said. “We will go play Bath or Shawnee will come here.”

By Jose Nogueras

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