COVID protocol student-athlete check-in table

Equipped with Lysol spray, hand sanitizer and other items to help with the health and safety initiatives put in place to combat COVID-19, the student-athlete check-in table at Indian River High School was ready for the first day of practice on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Almost 200 student-athletes were finally officially able to start practicing with their teams for the fall sports season.

It’s been a seesaw of emotions for student-athletes and their parents as it pertains to their fall sports seasons. A month ago, it looked as though there would be no fall sports until February or March of 2021. Then, a couple weeks later, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) changed its course, and approved for fall sports to be moved back to its normal “season.”

Monday, Sept. 28, was officially the first day that DIAA-member schools were permitted to begin practicing for the fall sports season. Locally, the Indian River High School student-athletes didn’t get started until the next day, as they awaited approval from their school board, which came during a meeting on Monday, Sept. 28.

So, fall sports is back.

The Indians’ fall sports teams jumped right back into the mix with both feet, and, of course, their protocol required masks.

“It went very well for the circumstances,” said IRHS athletic director Todd Fuhrmann. “We had just under 200 kids out for all the sports.”

Despite all the new health and safety protocols mandated, there appeared to be no delay to the start of practices.

“Though we have new rules in place, the athletes did a great job following them,” Fuhrmann said. “While it is all new to us, I am very proud of our athletes. They did a great job of being patient and working through the process. It did take a few extra minutes. Every sport was able to start practice on time and work together.”

Among the new protocols that need to be followed is that all athletes need to wear their masks at all times. They must provide their own water for practices and games, and they must have their temperature checked before they can enter the practice area.

“Every coach was excited to see the athletes and be able to have face-to-face time, even though we have new restrictions,” Fuhrmann added. Tuesday, he said, “was a very positive day.”

For veteran field hockey coach Jodi Stone, just being able to be back out on the field formally was great.

“In our opinion, under the circumstances, practice went very well,” Stone said. “We had 28 players that attended our first practice, which is the norm for our program. Our players are very adaptable and willing to comply with the new safety protocols that are put in place so that we are able to have a fall season. We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to participate in a fall season, and we are ready to play some field hockey.”

The Indians’ football team was also out in full force for the first day. With the protocols in place for football possibly being the most difficult to work through — wearing a mask under a helmet — it is likely to take a little bit more of an adjustment period for the gridders to get used to. However, thanks to some preseason workouts, the team is able to hit the ground running.

“The first day of practice went great,” said IR head coach Phil Townsend. “We were fortunate enough to have informal instruction/workouts for three weeks before we kicked off the season. Most kids were familiar with the COVID protocols and specific drills, which made for an easy transition on Monday. We had roughly 45 kids out on the first day. Looking forward to a fun season.”

Cross-country has been deemed a low-risk sport, and therefore the student-athletes that participate will not have to wear masks during their practices and competitions. Second-year head coach Rick Hundley said he was pleased overall with the first day of practice.

“The boys looked super,” proclaimed Hundley. “It was like there was never an offseason. They were fast, strong and smart. They’re gonna be good … again. We only lost one senior, so Coach [Colin] Crandell and I are very excited.

“We only had two girls come out, and we are gonna need more participation,” he added of the girls’ team. “That being said … Heather Smyth and Brynn Crandell are first-year runners and very strong. Keep an eye on both of them and expect great things to happen.”

Cross-country will have just five meets for the 2020 season, and will break from the starting line on Wednesday, Oct. 21, when Delmar visits the Indians.

With so much excitement surrounding the fall sports scene, the next three weeks of practice before games can begin are going to fly by.

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Kylie, 17, and Grace, 12. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that builds.