WHS sports practices to begin Aug. 10
Much like pioneers exploring an undiscovered country, student-athletes in the Waynesville R-VI School District, along with coaches, trainers, other school staff — and parents — have forged a path toward returning to the playing fields and courts this fall.
After more than six weeks of training under new, strict COVID-19 mitigation requirements to complete the first two phases of the R-VI District’s “Return to Participation Plan,” the district has moved into “Phase III,” with coaches now preparing for the first day of sports practices for high-school athletes Aug. 10 and the first day of middle-school practices Aug. 17.
“The phases have progressed well at this point, and our coaches, custodial staff, and athletic personnel have done a tremendous job following the plan,” R-VI Activities and Athletics Director Cory Ace said.
Since the outset, students have focused mostly on strength-building and conditioning while getting used to working in small groups of 10 or fewer and practicing social distancing, mask-wearing and adhering to a long list of other requirements. Readers can download PDFs outlining the entire plan, along with all fall sports requirements on the district’s athletics website https://waynesvilletigerathletics.org/main/filesLinks/.
Ace explained that implementing a return in phases has allowed the district to “slow step into things,” evaluating procedures and practices each day and making improvements where needed.
“Phase I was the key in moving forward,” Ace said. “In Phase I, we spent an entire month on just strength and conditioning. This allowed us to contact-track kids, develop cohorts of student-athletes and keep safety at the forefront. In addition, this allowed us to mentally and physically prepare ourselves after being on the sidelines for so long.”
Ace said that throughout the first two phases, both participation and cooperation from students and parents have been strong.
“Our kids and parents responded to the expectations we set,” he said. “From there it was an easy transition to getting back to some normalcy. And along the way, we developed some practices that improved our overall athletic program. With change, there is always innovation.”
Once practices begin, students will be limited to groups of 50 and will still maintain social distancing. Mask-wearing is strongly recommended for student-athletes.
As with the first two phases, no spectators are allowed within the facilities during practices, and parents and guardians picking up or dropping off students are asked to stay in their vehicles.
“The fewer the people, the less likely for any unnecessary contact,” Ace said. “The expectations of parents not coming onto the practice facilities also allowed for our coaches and staff to facilitate the checking-in of students and eliminated any distractions from that process.”
So far, Ace said, parents have done “a great job following those guidelines.”
“The success of what we have been able to do is really a combination of parents and student-athletes understanding and meeting the expectations through communication, coaches and staff embracing change, and an overall willingness to put the safety of our students and staff first,” he said.
(Editor’s note: Information provided by the R-VI Office of Communications and Marketing.)