With the recent decision by the DIAA to postpone the start of their interscholastic sports seasons, many school districts throughout the state are working on ways to keep their student-athletes involved and active.
Locally, Indian River High School’s athletics department has been brainstorming their own ways to make this happen. Athletic Director and trainer Todd Fuhrmann was tight-lipped on specific details, but basically said where there’s a “will” there’s a way.
“We are exhausting all possibilities for ways to keep our student-athletes involved,” Fuhrmann did say in an interview Tuesday night, Aug. 18. “I will be meeting with my coaches over the next few days, and we will be working on some more specific details for conditioning and volunteer practices for each sport.”
The Delaware State Board of Education voted last to approve several amendments to the Emergency Regulation 1010 that were proposed at the DIAA’s Board of Director's meeting back on Aug. 6. The approval of the amendments will allow the DIAA and its member schools to proceed in Stage 2 of the Return to Play plan. The major changes to E.R. 1010 includes aligning the regulation with the Department of Education's guidance for reopening schools, coaching out-of-season guidelines, and condensing and delaying the 2020-2021 sport seasons.
In Stage 2 of the Return to Play plan, member schools’ coaches will be permitted to provide out-of-season instruction to their players. This also includes conducting open gyms, monitoring conditioning programs, and informal instruction. There can be no formal practices, scrimmages, or competitions permitted during Stage 2. All athletic activities must adhere to Governor John Carney's State of Emergency Order and Modifications, DIAA Regulations, and Delaware Division of Public Health’s mitigation strategies to assist in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Prior to participating in any permissible interscholastic athletic activity, student athletes must clear a COVID-19 health screening process conducted by an approved screener. Athletic directors will designate screeners and will communicate with their athletic departments what their screening protocol is.
“Like we did with the conditioning sessions we held, all participants will go through all the protocols that were put in place by DPH and the DIAA,” Fuhrmann admitted. “We will be working on ways with our coaches, staff, and administration to get our student-athletes back into participating, while remaining safe and healthy.”
The DIAA will work with member school administrators, athletic directors, sport committees, athletic trainers and the DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on clarifying permissible athletic activities for DIAA's student athletes. The exact season start and end dates will be decided upon at the September DIAA Board of Directors meeting.
“The DIAA Board appreciates all of the feedback from the public, our member schools, and all stakeholders in working together to develop a plan to preserve all education-based, interscholastic sports seasons, when and how they will be permitted safely,” said Bradley Layfield, DIAA Board chair and Sussex Central High School principal, in a press release.
Football and wrestling are not included in DPH’s sport-specific guidance, and are not approved to be played at this time. DIAA will continue to work with DPH during the COVID-19 pandemic to revisit guidance and sport-specific guidelines. Football and wrestling student athletes may participate in the aforementioned Stage 2 activities, which consists of open gyms, conditioning programs and informal instruction.
“We all have mixed feelings about the sport seasons being pushed back to December,” said DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk in the same press release. “I take this time to thank member school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, student athletes and community members for your patience and understanding during this time of decision making and as we proceed into the 2020-2021 academic year. I ask that we all come together to support the plan to ensure student-athletes can first return to school and their academics and then participate in interscholastic sports.
“Although sports this upcoming school year may look a little different than we are used to, DIAA remains committed to providing opportunities for our student athletes to participate in athletic activities while ensuring their health and safety. We look forward to seeing our teams compete this school year, when the time is right.”