Coaches, Athletic Directors react to UIL, TAPPS plans to start "limited" summer strength & conditioning workouts
HOUSTON - For many coaches it is the light at the end of the tunnel. For athletes, it's a glimmer of hope.
The University Interscholastic League announced on Tuesday that it will be looking to start "limited" summer strength and conditioning on June 8, according to an email from UIL Athletic Director Dr. Susan Elza with more details to be released later this week.
"More than anything it's the start, it's something to look forward to and at least know that you can start working towards some sense of normalcy," North Shore coach Jon Kay said. "More than anything get our kids doing something physically. Once those directives come down, I realize it's going to be extremely limited early on but just to get some sort of structure in their day and the coaches day and start piecing it back together, it's a great start."
For Jeff Riordan, who spent seven seasons at Crosby before moving to Chapel Hill, this offseason has been tough because this was going to be his first full offseason with his team.
Riordan was hired at Chapel Hill just after spring break a year ago. This year, COVID-19 shutdowns began right after spring break, meaning an offseason missed - meaning one full offseason in two years.
With that in mind, hearing the news on Tuesday morning of something coming back cued up a few celebratory fist bumps.
"I think the biggest deal was having some direction and some solid news of when we're going to be able to do anything," Riordan said. "Because right now, every day is the same day like walking on a treadmill, you know you're not getting anywhere. But having that date announced that gives us something to shoot for and to plan for."
UIL is aware of Gov. Abbott's May 18 announcement and is actively working with appropriate state officials to allow schools to begin limited summer strength & conditioning and marching band activities on June 8. Once finalized, details will be released to schools.
— Texas UIL (@uiltexas) May 19, 2020
Prior to the UIL announcement, TAPPS was hosting a football webinar where they announced they would start summer conditioning on June 1 with a limit of no more than four participants per coach, no equipment allowed and social distancing must be adhered to.
"My message to coaches this morning in my email was 'Hey, we've got some hope here'," Second Baptist School Athletic Director Mike Walker said. "I think with the governor's address followed up by the TAPPS call, there's going to be some light at the end of the tunnel hopefully that we can start doing life with kids again. That's the best part for us is interacting face-to-face and having those connections."
Walker did state that Second Baptist School will not be returning to having athletes on campus by June 1. Walker said they are currently working on their plans to phase in athletes being on campus again in a safe manner.
It is a possibility that the UIL could come out with similar restrictions to start.
Kay said he is OK with that considering the ultimate goal is to be hosting a full team practice on August 3 and opening the season on August 29.
"I think the biggest thing is trying to see the bigger picture of everything," Kay said. "I think you get the news and you start visualizing skill development, weight room and doing the things that we've been doing for years and the reality is that's just not going to be the case, especially early on. I've read about the NCAA not being able to do lifts that require a spotter or not even be able to throw a football.
"Those are things that I would have never taken into consideration. I think it's critical that we get some directives, a timeline and start thinking big picture of exactly what we can and can't do."
For Craig Stump the plans to be ready for news like this has been being worked on in house at Atascocita for the past week.
UIL will release its guidelines later this week, but Stump said they took Texas Governor Greg Abbott's recommendations and guidelines and try to apply it to our weight room. What would 25 percent be, where would we enter from, the checks you'd have to do on the kids, the questionnaire, the symptoms check and what will the district need.
"We've been working on that for a week and hope that when something happened we would have an approved way to do it," Stump said.
If the UIL does allow the teams to start working on in their weight rooms - which TAPPS did not approve in their June 1 guidelines - Stump said they have been looking into spotterless workouts, which would be on the squat, meaning safety bars would have to be on the racks.
Even if they are allowed in the weight room, Stump said the athletes will need to be phased into doing workouts with weights again.
"We've had workouts for them to do but none of them have involved weights unless they had their own," he said. "You can only do so many pushups and lunges with milk jugs. It's not the same. It's going to be light weight to begin with, almost like starting over where as opposed in the past we would have had an offseason and tested again and had a whole new set of maxes.
"It's almost going to be like where we were in January, I hope not."
At Atascocita their strength and conditioning program has stretched across all sports - like many high schools do - and for some reaches down to their middle school student-athletes.
In the past, Stump said they could have upwards of 300 or more athletes from all different sports working out. But to start with any size of groups in a few weeks will be welcomed.
"Even if it's a group of 20 and you rotate them out for another group, it'll be better for volleyball, basketball and everybody," Stump said. "It won't be the same strength and conditioning program in the past but we'll be able to get our kids on campus."
The perspective from a head football coach and an athletic director can vary.
Spring Branch ISD Athletic Director Paige Hershey told VYPE that she is excited about the news that the UIL is moving forward with a plan but she also has to take a different approach, considering she oversees five high schools with thousands of student-athletes and hundreds of coaches she has to keep safe.
"I think it's exciting but also in our role there's a level of responsibility about making sure things are as safe as they can be," Hershey said. "My excitement is tempered by responsibility. So, I'm excited but I know that at the same time I always feel like there's a lot of responsibility when kids are in your care.
"While I'm excited for them I know that we have to do everything we can to be as safe as we can. I just want to make sure we're thinking about the things that we need to do so that our kids, parents and coaches are safe."
For many athletes, middle of March was the last time they had any kind of team organized activity through the school.
"Super excited," Katy Taylor offensive lineman Bryce Foster said about hearing the news. "I don't think I've ever been more bored."
Of course, coaches have been able to do virtual workout programs for the athletes to do at home and some have been working with personal trainers. But to get them collectively back on campus, in a school workout environment is critical.
"I think that's going to pay huge dividends and I know the physical stuff is going to come," Kay said. "We're going to be patient and let this thing run its course. Just to be able to have a schedule and some structure in our daily lives is going to a long way."
Other ways teams have been able to continue with teaching this offseason have been through Zoom or Google Meet programs, which have become highly popular during this time.
But to be back in person will be welcomed by all coaches.
"We've been Zoomed out, Google meets-outed, we've been doing as much as we can to keep our kids connected and engaged through those different avenues," Riordan said. "Actually getting to see them, work with them and be face-to-face in the same room with them is going to be awesome.
"I think the kids need the coaches but us coaches need kids too. That's been what we do day-in and day-out and just to not have that for nearly three months is crazy."
Stump added: "I think it will, just to be doing something and just to see them in person, that'll be exciting. I've already had a group text with the coaches, everybody is liking it and excited about it."
This story will continue to be updated throughout the day as VYPE gathers more interviews.