A decision by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association on Wednesday to push back the start of summer activities as the state continues to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic left area prep athletic officials with a feeling of disappointment but with understanding.
“I didn’t expect an immediate return,” said Robert Valdez, St. James High’s athletic director and head football coach. “I expected somewhere with maybe a June start date or something like that. I still believe there will be restrictions in terms how many people can do what things and the affect of contact and no-contact.”
“I was surprised in one sense because the step the LHSAA took to push back the start of summer rules – no organized team activities for any LHSAA member schools until June 8,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s athletic director and head football coach.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced earlier in the week the state will be entering Phase One on Friday. With that in mind, some high school athletic officials hoped summer activities might be allowed on a limited basis.
The governor announced that Phase One is schedule to in place for 21 days.
In a normal year, LHSAA bylaws permit the start date for all summer rules in the 46th week of the National Federation of High Schools calendar.
This year’s start date would have fallen Sunday.
Eddie Bonine, the executive director of the LHSAA, after a conference call Wednesday with the organization’s executive committee, announced via a memorandum that the summer rules have been pushed back to June 8.
“The primary concern of the LHSAA,” the memo read, “is to look out for the safety and well-being of all student athletes, coaches, and anyone else who may be involved with the summer programs.”
“As far as student interaction with student-athletes it will remain the same as the last two months but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Preparation can start for safe return on June 8 as long as we receive permission for our superintendent, school board and principal,” said Jenkins, president of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association.
If Phase One is successful, the governor is expected to move the state to Phase Two after the three-week period.
Citing Louisiana’s K-12 Support Guidance and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the LHSAA informed its membership that, “Phase I group sizes cannot exceed 10, including adults and there are no “Contact Sports” allowed, which includes Basketball, Football, Soccer and Wrestling. In Phase II, group sizes will be 25, including adults, and only “Limited Contact Sports” that include Baseball, Cheerleading, Gymnastics, Softball and Volleyball. The third category is “non-contact” sports, which are allowable during both Phase I and Phase II, consisting of Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Powerlifting, Swimming, Tennis and Weightlifting.
As the waiting game continues, the inactive time would best be served by school systems establishing their own health safety measures, the athletic administrators agree.
“During this time we will use the guidelines to develop the protocols to return to campus safely,” said Jenkins.
“I think every individual school district needs to come up with a contingency plan on how they plan on handling summer activities and moving forward into possibly opening schools and what the fall looks like. It gives us a little time to do some research to make sure we have things in place for when that day comes,” Valdez said.