The Sarasota County School District’s plan for returning to athletics didn’t last long before needing an amendment.
Two days into ‘Phase 2’ of a four-phase plan for transitioning high school athletes back into their sports, Sarasota County athletic director James Slaton announced the district would instead be scaling back its protocols to a “modified Phase 1.”
Originally, athletes were allotted one hour of work outdoors without the use of equipment. Teams were just getting started on Phase 2 — which allowed for an additional hour of indoor weight room work — before Tuesday’s announcement.
Following a week in which the state reported a record high for daily coronavirus cases, Governor Ron DeSantis took action by prohibiting on-site alcohol sales in bars.
“That definitely raised our concern,” Slaton said of DeSantis’ effectively shutting bars back down. “And across the state you’re seeing districts that are holding back, like Manatee County is also not moving forward with its phases.
“The number of COVID cases are going up and our No. 1 concern is for student safety. It’s extremely hard once you go indoors to social distance.”
Charlotte County has yet to scale back any of its protocols and will remain working indoors for the time being, according to Port Charlotte athletic director Bob Bruglio.
However, beginning this past Wednesday, Sarasota County athletes will no longer be allowed to do any indoor work or practice. Instead, that additional hour will be spent outside with equipment.
Though coaches will still have two hours with their team, some are uncertain if that’s enough to prepare everyone for a season that is steadily approaching.
“We can definitely get ready, our only concern with that is injuries,” Venice football coach John Peacock said. “Not being able to lift weights is tough for football. I think all of the other sports will be fine, but without the weights you’re really putting your athletes at risk as far as injuries go.“But we’ll be ready to go.”
Peacock and his Venice coaching staff were already getting accustomed to the county’s new protocols — buying an electrostatic sprayer that costs around $1,400, according to Peacock.
The handheld device uses a solution that sprays disinfectant spray with a static charge so it’s more likely to attach to surfaces.
This device could still be used to clean equipment brought outdoors, but Peacock said it’s “not feasible” to bring much weight room equipment outdoors without fear of damaging it.
North Port football coach Billy Huthman also expressed some concern over the new protocols, but ultimately said he’s confident that his team will be ready. The Bobcats have been working on conditioning and CrossFit exercises and Huthman said he will move some weights outdoors for the time being.
Slaton said the schedule will be re-evaluated based on how the local and statewide government reacts to the virus and if the number of cases continue to rise. As of now, all future plans — even the start of the season — are tentative.
Despite this, many teams are still going forward with business as usual — scheduling buses, selling tickets and planning for a season. But with the recent uptick of coronavirus cases in the state, Tuesday’s announcement didn’t come as a shock to most.
“Thank god none of the kids have tested positive for it,” Venice athletic director Pete Dombroski said. “But you see the numbers spiking and as many as five to 10 thousand people are testing positive for it each day. The city of Sarasota is requiring masks soon. They’re shutting down beaches. We’re shutting down graduation.
“So, it’s not a surprise that this is happening.”