GOSHEN — In what quite possibly might be the new norm when it comes to high school athletics, athletes in all sports were allowed to return to schools to begin preparations for the 2020-21 season Monday under a much different set of circumstances then they were previously accustomed too.

Athletes have remained off-campus and out of touch with coaches and teammates with the exception of group meetings held on the internet since the IHSAA canceled the boys state basketball tournament on March 19 and the entire spring sports season on April 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It went better than expected,” said Goshen High School football coach Kyle Park after Monday’s first conditioning session. “There is a lot of new protocols in place. Once we were able to get started, things ran smoothly. It just took longer to get there. It was not normal but it was a step in the right direction.”

Starting Monday, athletes could be back on campus for organized team workouts in the first phase of a three-phase return plan. 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.

One thing that isn’t required is taking an athlete’s temperature before allowing them to compete.

“The parents have to sign a waiver and agree to self-screening at home for the virus symptoms,” Park said. “We have a script we have to go over with the athletes. Once we get the workouts started it’s not bad. We just have a different process of getting there. We have a lot more to cover with the athletes. There is more for the coaches to do; however, what we are doing is for the benefit of the athletes.”

Goshen football will be going four days per week with skill-related drills on Mondays and Wednesdays and conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

BACK IN ACTION

Third-year Fairfield football coach Matt Thacker shared about the emotional aspect of returning to work.

“You’re excited, you’re anxious, you’re nervous. You don’t know how many kids are going to show up and what kind of shape they’re going to be in,” the coach said. “Now, we’re going through a heatwave. So, you just have to roll with it and do the best you can and, at the same time, try to get better each day. Right now, we’re just like everybody else: everybody’s down at the bottom, and we’re going to try to take one step forward and get a little bit better each day.”

The coach also shared about one new aspect to workouts.

“I don’t even know how to whistle with the mask on,” Thacker said. “There’s a lot of things to get used to. Hopefully, they’re temporary and we can get back to normal as possible.”

Northridge High School football coach Tom Wogomon had to miss the first two days of workouts due to a self-quarantine after a possible exposure to the COVID-19. He is due to return Wednesday.

Northridge senior defensive end-fullback Andrew Lockwood talked about his reaction to being back on the football field.

“It felt good to be out there again. I like coming out here, seeing everyone and putting in work together. It was really fun,” he said.

There is an adjustment process.

“We all just need to get used to this coronavirus thing,” Lockwood added. “We all have to be responsible and keep on our masks to make sure we can have our season. After that, we just have to keep working and making sure we’re staying in shape.”

MANAGING THE RULES

All these new rules and regulations have created additional paperwork for the coaches. One extra item coaches need to keep track of and monitor is the fact each athlete is allowed a maximum of 15 hours per week at the school to cover conditioning and skill training. The process becomes a little more complicated when you are dealing with multi-sport athletes. The 15 hours are a total for all sports, so coaches are required to keep track of an athlete’s hours so the total is not exceeded.

That is one of the reasons why GHS girls soccer coach Myron Bontreger shared the girls soccer, volleyball and basketball teams are all doing conditioning work together.

“We have enough room in the gym to get the 70 girls all together and still maintain social distancing,” Bontreger said. “Its good from the standpoint we have some girls on the soccer team who play basketball, so why should I take them for an hour of conditioning and then have (girls basketball coach) Shaun Hill take them for another hour of conditioning.”

Goshen tennis coach Daniel Love leads both the boys and the girls teams and is combining the two squads into one session. As of the time this article was written, Love had not had his first session with the players.

“It will be good to see the players again. With the girls season being canceled last spring I have not seen some of the girls for a long time,” Love said. “Both programs have large freshmen classes so there is going to be a lot of learning new names and faces.

“We will have to be more spread out on the courts, so we will not be able to do some of the drills we normally would, but at least we will be back on the courts.”

Love, like many other coaches, isn’t sure what kind of numbers to expect in terms of players coming out for the team.

“It’s still summer and a lot of time people are on vacation, but this year that is probably going to change,” the coach said. “From what I have heard all of the racket clubs in the area are swamped. That shows people were tired of being cooped up and were ready for activities such as tennis. Now does that mean parents will be ready for their kids to come out and play at the prep level?”

Bontreger also reported good numbers in girls soccer.

“We had a good turnout. The girls were anxious for something to do,” he said.

Greg Keim and Austin Hough can be reached at sports@goshennews.com. Follow Greg on Twitter at @gkeim_TGN and Austin at @AustinHoughTGN.

Greg Keim and Austin Hough can be reached at sports@goshennews.com. Follow Greg on Twitter at @gkeim_TGN and Austin at @AustinHoughTGN.

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