Football was the driving force in discussions to begin voluntary workouts for high school fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, there are plenty more student-athletes champing at the bit to get back on Valley fields in advance of their upcoming seasons.
For instance, Selinsgrove field hockey — winner of 15 consecutive district championships — lost six spring tournament opportunities to the coronavirus outbreak, according to coach Roz Erb. The Seals intend to return to the field a week from Thursday, following the approval at next week’s school board meeting of a restart plan developed by the district.
“Our focus for the first few weeks will be safety for all and skill-based drills where we can maintain distancing requirements and reacquaint ourselves with the turf,” Erb explained. “I believe that our kids have done a good job with self-motivated conditioning during this quarantine, but there have been no turf facilities for them to access. We will need to make good use of our six weeks of voluntary workouts to get us on the right track.”
The Midd-West school board must also approve a contract for student-athletes to return to play.
“If approved we can hold practices, and it will be in phases,” said Mustangs field hockey coach Jodie Sheaffer.
The Mifflinburg school board unanimously approved its return-to-play guidelines during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Athletic Director Eldon Hoy said the expectation was that workouts could begin next Monday.
Hoy held a meeting Monday night with the trainer and varsity coaches.
“All programs had a representative at the meeting, and we went through the plan with a finetooth comb,” Hoy said.
The plan includes not allowing coaches or student-athletes to use the locker room through at least phase one, and banning concession stands through at least the phase three.
As part of Mifflinburg’s plan, Hoy said all coaches and athletes would be required to complete a screening questionnaire prior to working out.
“The two main questions are: ‘Have you come in contact with anyone who has tested positive?’ and ‘Are you experiencing any symptoms?’” Hoy said. “The coaches need to see kids physically answer ‘no’ and ‘no’ to those two questions.”
Hoy said the plan also calls for spot temperature checks, and it suggested that those happen once per week.
Erb also agreed that safety was the top priority.
“Lots of plans for practice and drill design to insure we are doing our part to protect the kids,” said Erb. “We do so much safety training already for concussion, heat-related illness, cardiac stress, first aid ... this is just one more layer.”
Danville football was one of the first programs to get back to work on Monday after a meeting between coaches and parents on Saturday.
First-year coach Mike Brennan said the kids were excited to get back to work after such a long layoff, and he was excited to see and connect with them after months of Zoom meetings. Brennan had been working for week in the school district when the coronavirus pandemic shutdown Pennsylvania schools back in March.
“We did a lot with Zoom meetings, and we were able to connect through messages, and getting workouts in the kids hands in every day,” Brennan said. “But, it was great to look everybody in the eye over the last days, and to get to know each other better.”
Through voluntary, the Ironmen have had nearly 100 percent attendance over the first two days. It shows Brennan the excitement his players have to be back and for the upcoming season.
“The energy has been great,” Brennan said. “I think they are so dialed in because they’re excited for the season, and it’s taken up a notch because they are back on the field after missing their spring sports season.”
Daily Item sports editor Kurt Ritzman and sports reporter Todd Hummel contributed to this report.