GRAFTON—Now that the WVSSAC has released a set of guidelines for counties to follow as they begin summer conditioning, the Grafton Bearcats’ football team met at the high school on Monday to begin navigating their way through “Phase 1” of the recommended three-phase process.
During Phase 1, which is scheduled to run from June 8-June 19, athletes will be broken up into “pods” of 10 or fewer players and will be permitted to meet with coaches for one hour per day. Those meetings must be held outdoors.
Following Phase 1, Phase 2 will begin, which will run from June 22 to July 3 and will employ the loosening of restrictions. During this phase, “up to” 25 student athletes at a time will be allowed to participate. Indoor and outdoor practices will be allowed, though WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said the committee recommends meeting outdoors whenever possible. Practices for groups may also last up to two hours.
During Phases 1 and 2, no sport-specific activities are permitted, and meetings must focus on conditioning, strength training and agility.
Face masks are recommended, except during high-intensity training. Disinfectants and hand sanitizers must be available on-site, and any person, player or coach showing symptoms of COVID-19 must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
“We followed all of the safety procedures that were established by the WVSSAC and the county health department,” said Grafton Head Coach Rich Bord. “As we go through Phase 1 and Phase 2, they’ll be looking at the COVID numbers across the state. If there is a jump, they’ll shut us down. It’s really a test to see whether we can curtail the virus. But as far as our first day of workouts, I felt like we had no issues at all.”
Bord said the first two pods met for an hour in the morning and the last three pods met for an hour in the evening, and that every precaution was taken to ensure the safety of the players and coaches.
“We had around 42 players participate in the workouts,” Bord stated. “Everyone had their temperatures taken, including the coaches. There are a series of health questions that we must ask the athletes, and everyone must sanitize thoroughly. Also, six-foot spacing is required.”
He expressed that as they make their way through the strict restrictions of Phase 1, Phase 2 does provide “an extra hour of workouts and strict conditions to use the weight room.”
Phase 3 would then consist of the three-week summer live period, during the weeks of July 6, July 13 and July 20.
“Everything at this point is speculation and could very easily change. They could even eliminate Phase 3. Many families are going to be affected because they scheduled vacations for July thinking that we were going to have June practices. But I told them to absolutely go on vacation if they can. One week isn’t going to make or break anything,” Bord voiced.
Scheduling challenges also await not only the GHS program, but programs around the state in general, as many West Virginia schools do play out-of-state teams and considerations must be made for the guidelines and restrictions set forth by those respective states.
“Maryland has already talked about virtual schooling and we do play Northern Garrett (MD) in October,” Bord said. “There are already schools calling around to see if Maryland does go to virtual schooling, if any West Virginia schools could play.”
Another area of concern for the long-time GHS coach is that Phase 3 of the guidelines proposes that no helmets be used during the summer live period, which could create all sorts of potential issues.
“It’s definitely a concern for me,” Bord added. “There are not only safety issues, but the players need to get accustomed to wearing helmets.”
He also understands that circumstances will change from day-to-day, but all he can do right now is just keep doing the best he can do and keep his players focused. Even though his players face constant uncertainty regarding the pandemic, he continues to relay the same positive message.
“I told them you can’t worry about things you have no control over. Just worry about getting yourself ready for the season,” Bord imparted.