GOSHEN — The high school sports world stopped in Indiana March 13. More than three months later, it’s trying to make a comeback.

Starting this Monday, July 6, school sports staffs can welcome athletes back to campus for organized team workouts. The state of Indiana announced a three-phase plan on June 5 to return to extra-curricular activities, including sports, as part of its IN-CLASS plan to bring students back to school for the 2020-21 school year.

Phase one goes from July 6-19 and features many health provisions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the more notable rules are locker rooms are closed, each athlete must supply their own water bottle and athletes are limited to 15 hours a week on campus.

While on campus, everyone will have to wear a face mask, unless they are exercising. If an athlete or coach comes on to campus without a mask, they must return home and get one. When an athlete is done working out, they must put their mask back on.

With the return to sports coming next week, Goshen High School hosted an informational meeting for parents and athletes Monday at Foreman Field. They’re also hosting one Wednesday at 7 p.m. GHS Athletic Director Larry Kissinger, Director of Human Services Susan Stiffney, Head Athletic Trainer George Potter and a Goshen Orthopedics representative, Dr. Nick DeFauw, were on hand to clarify any concerns parents had.

“This is unchartered territory for all of us. … Any input from you guys is important,” Kissinger said to the approximately 100 people in attendance. “A lot of times in education, we say we’re partnering. Well, for the most part, the school sets the rules and you guys try to work within those rules. But, at no time ever in my 37 years of education has partnering with parents been more important.

“We need to hear from you because we’re definitely going day-by-day; things keep changing.”

One parent in attendance, Krista Daniels, feels like she had all of her questions answered from the health officials. Now, she just hopes everyone can follow the rules and maintain the health guidelines.

“I know the coaches do a good job at following the heat protocol; they do a lot of training on that and I trust that’s going to be taken care of,” Daniels said. “I know there’s a lot of tension around the mask-wearing thing, especially (Monday) after the mandate came out, so that’s just my biggest concern.”

She was referring to a health order issued by Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz. That order mandates masks be worn in most public settings when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Kissinger was unsure what the mandate means for athletes working out, but he believes it’ll help enforce the IHSAA rules in regards to wearing masks.

“I think it’s going to help us,” Kissinger said. “I think it emphasizes what we were trying to emphasize with kids and parents that you must wear that face mask on campus. What we’re seeing now, the face mask seems to be the biggest thing that we can do to help minimize the spread.”

Kissinger said that equipment will be sanitized daily. He said soccer will be played with the soccer balls provided by the school district and disinfected when practice ends. The disinfectant the school staff uses allows them to spray the equipment down, let it air dry and be done. Nobody will touch the equipment after it has been disinfected until the next day.

Goshen Health is helping with the water bottle issue as well. DeFauw said the health system has bought 2,000 water bottles, which is enough for each athlete at Goshen, Fairfield and Concord high schools. Some bottles will also be donated to Northridge, which had a booster buy water bottles for athletes as well.

Hydration is the key thing Potter stressed to the parents and athletes in attendance, especially with the high temperatures that come in July.

“One of the big concerns that we have is the risk of heat illness, heat exhaustion, heat stroke; those kinds of things because a lot of kids may not have had the workouts all summer like they’re used to having to get acclimatized to hot weather and working out in hot weather,” Potter said. “We really want to emphasize that your kids are taking care of hydration.”

The goal is keeping everyone healthy and safe as they try to get ready for the sports season. Kissinger is hopeful the return plan will help with achieving that goal.

“We just want kids back on campus, so if we have to be over-protective with that, we certainly are going to be,” Kissinger said.

The full Phase One of the IHSAA plan is in the picture slideshow at the top of this story. English and Spanish versions of the GHS daily self-assessment guide are there as well.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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