High school athletes preparing to take to the field The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

High school athletes preparing to take to the field

High school athletes preparing to take to the field

By Zach Alvira
Tribune Sports Editor

The Arizona Interscholastic Association on Thursday announced its recommendations for schools to begin welcoming student-athletes back on campus for summer workouts in phases and Mesa athletes might be heading to practice soon.

The recommendations were made by the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and fall in line with other guidelines imposed by state and national health committees, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

School districts are welcome to base their own plans on the AIA’s suggestions or develop their own guidelines. Some had already established guidelines their students and coaches will follow beginning as early as Monday.

The recommendations do not cover attendance at regular games and guidelines for that likely will be made by district administrators.

Mesa Public Schools Athletic Director Steve Hogan said in an email to The Tribune that the district had prepared guidelines of its own and would present it to administrators for approval. A decision is expected Monday. 

“I think there has to be a way to phase it in,” said Mountain View coach Mike Fell, who spent was hired by to coach the Toros in 2016 after three seasons at Lima Senior High School in Ohio. “Coming from Ohio, we didn’t really start until around this time anyway. You weren’t allowed to have contact with the kids, coaching wise, until the summer.

“It would be nice to throw the ball and be in the weight room and hopefully we will be. If it takes a week or two weeks, by the end of June we should be up and going.”

The recommendations from the AIA were approved during a special executive board session held Thursday morning.

The 12-page document includes general health practices, including staying home if sick or at risk for severe illness, frequently washing hands and using a face mask when possible.

The AIA also recommends daily health and temperature checks and for schools to issue questionnaires that require athletes to list any and all symptoms they may have on a daily basis.

Additionally, the AIA recommended athletes to avoid fist bumps, high fives and hugging, as well as to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. The recommendations also call for outdoor practices when possible and for drinking fountains and locker rooms to be closed.

The first phase of the AIA recommendations calls for groups no larger than 10 that remain together each day. All athletes and coaches must be symptom free for at least 14 days before taking part in training exercises.

If athletes live with someone that is either sick or at an elevated risk, they should not attend workouts. All personal equipment should be disinfected after practice and athletes should head home immediately.

“Our priority through this is for the safety and well-being of all our state’s student-athletes and those that support them,” said Executive Director David Hines in a press release.

“We are not guaranteed to have a fall season. We are preparing to be ready on time, but it will all depend on how this situation develops as the summer goes on. We just ask that schools, coaches, players and parents consider and utilize the guidelines until we get back to normal.”

The second phase allows for 50 or more athletes. All other precautions from phase one remain intact.

Once in phase three, teams may return to a traditional practice setting with no limitations on the number of participants.

Contact is allowed to proceed in the third phase along with the use of shared equipment. The AIA also emphasized the importance of heat acclimatization in its return-to-play recommendations.

Mesa’s potential return for athletic workouts will follow other districts and schools that have already opened.

Gilbert Public Schools announced its four-phase guidelines Tuesday night. Coaches were briefed Thursday and workouts will begin Monday, June 1. Valley Christian High School released its guidelines and opened its campus to students on May 26.

Kerry Taylor, the new head football coach at San Tan Charter in Gilbert, announced his program would begin in-person workouts on June 1.

New Eastmark head baseball coach Shane Hilstrom said he received the go-ahead from school Athletic Director Kraig Leuschner to begin hosting camps for a small group of players.

Tempe Union High School District Athletic Director Bruce Kipper said he hopes for a mid-June start date. Scottsdale Unified School District spokeswoman Amy Bolton said the district is aiming for a June 29 start date.

The AIA’s recommendations came shortly before Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced schools would be open in the fall and organized youth sports could resume.

While several uncertainties remain surrounding the fall sports season, Fell believes having a rough timeline to get athletes on campus is a step in the right direction.

“One of the biggest fears us coaches have is not being able to play in the fall,” Fell said. “But now, I can’t imagine them having us do this and then not playing. To me, it kind of seems like we will be good to go. Honestly, that’s all you can hope for.”′

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