DOE allows summer athletic practices

Former Caesar Rodney High soccer players Eric Nam and Jalen Victory take part in practice. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The state’s high school student-athletes haven’t gotten much good news lately.

But, while the return of their fall sports seasons is still up in the air, they at least know they can start working out again.

Delaware’s Board of Education officially approved a DIAA motion on Tuesday evening that allows high school student-athletes to start summer practices.

The workouts can begin on July and must be done following guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

There would need to be more discussion by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association and education officials before sports competition can return this fall.

But a start is a start.

High school teams will be allowed to hold practices but must follow health guidelines to try to prevent the spread of the virus. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“The emergency regulations we have before us are really specifically to get our summer activities going,” said DIAA executive director Donna Polk. “Once we have notifications what our schools are going to look like (in the fall), the (DIAA) board will be able to address that.”

Officials decided that practices would start under Phase 3 — the most advanced of the DIAA’s ‘Return to Play’ regulations.

That means that “practices, scrimmages, and competitions,” are allowed in baseball, basketball, cross country (with staggered starts), field hockey, golf, girls’ lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field and volleyball.

In football, boys’ lacrosse and wrestling, modified practices will be permitted under the Delaware Division of Public Health’s guidelines for social distancing.

The return of football this fall remained very much up in the air, though, after Gov. John Carney’s pandemic update press conference earlier in the day,

“I played college football so I know a little bit about it,” said Carney. “And I don’t know how you play it in a pandemic. Think about the huddle, and practicing and the fans. It’s just hard to imagine that you can accomplish the objectives of social distancing and appropriate protection.

“It’s particularly hard for the seven people down on the line of scrimmage. … I don’t know how that kind of thing can happen,” he added.

“That’s a tough one,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, the state director of public health. “Contact sports are very risky. As we have seen, there’s a lot of college athletes who have tested positive recently. We certainly do not have all the answers, certainly for high school sports at this point.”

State regulations will still take precedent over workouts. As is the case for most DIAA rules, individual school officials will be responsible for seeing that practices are conducted according to health guidelines.

Coaches and student-athletes will need to be screened for virus symptoms before every practice. Officials are expected to keep a record of everyone attending a practice.

It clearly won’t be practice as normal for high school student-athletes. Then again, not much is normal these days.

“It’s just opening the door, that’s all,” Caesar Rodney superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald, a DIAA board member, said last week. “And unless you open the door, nothing starts. I don’t think anyone on the DIAA board — and I don’t think anyone at DOE or in the districts — want to say ‘no’ to athletics.

“We want our kids to be able to participate. We hope to be in school and we hope to provide those opportunities.”