SIDNEY — After two months of isolation, area football coaches said June wasn’t much different from normal years in terms of teams’ preparation activities.
Whether July and August will be different is still a question.
Football teams and other contact sports in Ohio have been allowed to participate in organized weight and skills training activities for over five weeks and since last week have been allowed to participate in normal practices.
Participating in events with other teams — including in scrimmages — remains prohibited. The regulations were put in place in March as part of the state’s effort to restrict large gatherings and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The restrictions on competing against opponents may be lifted this month as Ohio continues a gradual reopening process. Such a move would be welcomed by Sidney coach Adam Doenges, who would like for his squad to compete in 7-on-7 passing camps — a staple of July offseason training for football squads in Ohio.
“We’ve got a couple planned at our place (in July) with four teams like we’ve normally done in the past,” Doenges said. “If we’re allowed to do it, we’ll do it, and if not, we’ll adjust and make do with what we can.”
Sidney was one of two Miami Valley League schools that began weight training on May 26, the first day the state allowed for such activities to resume. Other MVL schools needed time to work out ways to meet state-imposed guidelines for activities to take place, including the frequent cleaning of equipment and adequate spacing in training facilities to ensure social distancing was followed.
Sidney had a plan in place and was ready to go. When the state government and the Ohio High School Athletic Association gave the go-ahead last week for contact practices to resume, Doenges didn’t waste time getting the Yellow Jackets on the field.
“We had a camp day (Tuesday), and that was the first time all summer (the team was) all together at the same time,” Doenges said. “… We’re off all next week, and then we’ll come back and hit the ground running later in the month with some more camp days and practices.”
Fort Loramie also resumed skills training right away, and coach Spencer Wells said players were happy to return.
“It was great to get the guys back into the weight room and start to get some type of normal schedule going,” Wells said. “Obviously things aren’t completely normal though. We’ve taken up all the safety guidelines of wiping everything down in the weight room, limiting how many people are indoors, all the stuff I’m sure every school has been doing.”
With a larger number of athletes to deal with, Doenges said Sidney has broken its weight training sessions into several smaller groups and spaced them throughout the day to ensure social distancing guidelines can be met. Athletes help clean equipment when done, coaches disinfect equipment between sessions and the schools’ custodial staff further cleans athletic facilities after activities conclude each day.
“There’s been a lot of cleaning,” Doenges said. “It smells very clean every time you walk into the weight room, there’s no doubt about it.”
As much as 7-on-7’s help develop players, Doenges said they’re not worth a risk of a breakout of infections on a team, which could halt all activities for weeks. Several large schools in Southwestern Ohio — including Centerville, Cincinnati Anderson and St. Xavier — have had athletes test positive for COVID-19 in the last week and temporarily shut down practices or all training activities as a result.
“I’m sure we’ll have conversations with the schools that we have coming in and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Doenges said. “The last thing you want is to do this and it cause it an outbreak. At the end of the day, we want to make sure come late August, we’re all playing real football games. If that means no 7-on-7’s right now, so be it.”
July may be a bit busier for some teams, even if competitions aren’t allowed. The OHSAA typically allows all sports teams 10 days in summer for practices and other coaching activities. Since all team activities were barred from mid-March to late May, the OHSAA decided to remove that restriction this summer, allowing unlimited practices to be conducted.
Wells said the Redskins won’t practice more than 10 days, though, as he doesn’t want to wear down players.
“We haven’t done any contact stuff yet on the field, which is mainly because we’re following our typical schedule,” Wells said. “… We always use those 10 days typically in the second and third week of July. …With a lot of our kids being three-sport athletes, we’re still only going to use the 10 days.
“… We’ve got three 7-on-7’s scheduled as a part of our 10 days. Hopefully we get a chance to do those. We seem to be trending in the right direction. First we were able to start lifting, then they said we could have contact practice. Hopefully in the next couple weeks, they’ll say we can have contact against other schools.
“Either way, we’re going to have to be really smart about washing our hands, distancing when we’re not on the field so we don’t take any steps back and we keep progressing to our season.”
Official preseason practice for football and all fall sports will begin Aug. 1. Regular season for football is scheduled to start the last week of August.
Doenges said he’s cautiously optimistic games will begin as scheduled but said there’s too many unknowns to think that is guaranteed.
“Sometimes you can feel pretty good about our chances, but then you can look on the internet and read an article about the Michigan governor recommending pushing fall sports to the spring and then another article about Tennessee pushing the season back at least another week,” Doenges said.
“You kind of just take it day-by-day, hour-by-hour. You don’t know for sure; it depends on what article you’ve just read. We’ll keep doing what we can until someone tells us otherwise.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.