An empty bar hangs in PACS' weight room ahead of conditioning beginning on June 8.

The clinging, clanging and banging of weights will be filling the area soon. The Georgia High School Association has signaled the return to summer conditioning after the board of trustees met last Thursday evening.

Starting on June 8, high school teams can begin their summer conditioning in preparation of the fall sports seasons that begin at the end of July. For most, it will be the first organized team activity since March 14 when schools were closed to in person classes and sports were halted before being cancelled altogether in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be guidelines.

With the return to conditioning the GHSA has set forth a list of rules and restrictions that must be followed by schools in order for conditioning to take place. The GHSA will leave schools and school districts a little wiggle room in implementing the restrictions stating in the guidelines that schools and school systems may be more restrictive but not less restrictive.

All of the summer conditioning will be deemed as voluntary. Workouts are to be conditioning only and no balls or sport specific equipment will be allowed. Teams will be allowed to condition in groups of 20, which includes coaches.

Teams will not be permitted to use locker rooms or shower facilities.

Teams will not be allowed to use water coolers or water cows during workouts as athletes are required to bring their own personal water bottles to workouts.

Athletes should be dressed at home prior to conditioning. Weights must be sanitized in-between workouts.

There must be a 15-minute gap between sessions to allow for disinfecting of the equipment.

There is no competition between schools allowed and no visitors will be allowed during conditioning.

Coaches and student athletes will be screened prior to each workout.

A questionnaire has been provided by the GHSA to aid in screening student athletes prior to a workout.

The workout questionnaire included four questions.

n Do you or have you had a fever in the last week?

n Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?

n Have you been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19?

n Have you traveled to a “hot spot” for COVID-19?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the athlete won’t be allowed to take part in workouts for 14 days.

Student athletes and coaches alike are simply happy to get the chance to be around one another. Building team chemistry comes from time spent in the weight room and during the conditioning drills prior to the season beginning.

“It’s very important,” Athens Academy senior Hugh Laughlin said. “I’m looking forward to getting in with the young guys and getting to bond with them some. We want to win a state championship. It’s not just about the guys that are playing. It’s about the entire comradery of the team and how you bond together as a team. That’s very important to me to get them in there.”

For programs like Prince Avenue Christian School’s football team the time to condition is a key for them. Many of the Wolverines play both ways.

“In single A, conditioning is more important than the weight room,” PACS football team head coach Greg Vandagriff said. “At our level you’ve got to think a little differently. For us, we’ve got to be in really good shape and then strong.”

Having a roster of about 60 players gives the area’s Class A Private programs a bit of advantage by way of time.

PACS plans to split their football team into thirds and instead of an 8-hour day of shuffling groups of players through the weight room the Wolverines’ coaching staff will be able to strategically place their 17 seniors in either one group or sprinkled throughout to help guide the younger players through the summer conditioning program.

“We’re going to go with 18 players and two coaches and that way we get better supervision,” Vandagriff said. “The part that sort of handicaps you is trying to figure out how many guys do you have that are proficient in the weight room. If you work with group A then you have to leave with group A. That’s forcing us to have some creativity there. It’s not challenges you can’t overcome, its just stuff you’re having to think through to make it most proficient.”

The return to conditioning is but the first step in what will be a tiered approach to easing into a fall sports season for the state.

GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines cautions that it should be just that, a first step. Hines is far from prepared to issue a guarantee that sports will begin the first week in August like they’re currently scheduled to.

Football acclimation period is currently scheduled to begin on July 27 with the first games set to begin on Aug. 21. Softball, volleyball and cross-country practices are scheduled to begin on Aug. 1 with real competition being allowed to commence starting on Aug. 6 for softball and Aug. 10 for both cross-country and volleyball.

Those dates will remain intact for now. Hines admits it’s too early to make a decision on things that will take place nearly two months away. The state of Georgia has over 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 1,800 deaths. The trend in new cases has been down over the last few weeks but things can change rapidly in the battle with a pandemic.

“This is a first step,” Hines said. “We can’t make a decision on what’s going to be happening on July 27. We’ve got a long way to go before July 27. We don’t have the information available to us to make a decision regarding the first official day of football practice. We don’t know where we will be. We’re hopeful that we will be on track. That’s what we pray for everyday. To extend that on into the third week of August, I can’t project that. I am hopeful and praying that there will be some things in place that will allow us to have a regular season just like it is.”

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