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The Sumter School District football teams at Sumter, Lakewood and Crestwood had their long awaited first workouts of the summer on Monday. Coaches knew this day was going to come with its share of hiccups as they have an extra layer of protocols this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, but things went pretty smoothly on Day 1.
"The biggest thing was that I was really proud of the assistant coaches, the players and parents for everything being kind of last minute as far as us starting to work out, but just being prepared," said Lakewood head coach Larry Cornelius. "I figured there would be a few hiccups here and there, just various issues with all the procedures we have to follow, but I thought it went very well considering the first day of workouts with the COVID situation."
Cornelius said the major hurdle the Gators had to clear was the first thing on their to-do list: checking kids in. Lakewood did a great job of spreading athletes out throughout the campus, but based on the layout of the school, there was going to be a bottleneck at the parking lot as kids did their temperature checks and handed in paperwork.
"One of our hiccups that we're correcting is that we had a little bit of a logjam of cars coming in, but a lot of that was first-day stuff, making sure that waivers were signed and all of that stuff," said Cornelius. "Really that was our biggest issue. Once they got into the gate and did the temperature checks and all that and getting onto the field, they did an excellent job."
Over at Crestwood, head coach Roosevelt Nelson thought the 2-step check-in process the Knights implemented ran smoothly.
"It went pretty well for the first day. The second day is going to be better, and it'll be better as we go along," said Nelson. "The two check-in points went well for the most part because a majority of the kids that came through the check-in stations already had their physicals and their COVID-19 waivers signed prior to coming in, so it was pretty much just checking their temps, filling out the questionnaire and making sure they parked in the proper parking spaces."
Paperwork is typically the biggest hurdle to clear when it comes to high school athletics and this year is no different, but Nelson would rather have extra paperwork than risk the health of his players and coaching staff.
"It's a hurdle, it's something we have to work through," said Nelson on the paperwork his players need to have ready to go. "I would rather have those hurdles and keep everything as serious as possible in a controlled environment than have them not in place and put kids at risk."
Once teams got to the actual workouts things went pretty smoothly.
"Pretty good. Most of our workout is consisting of basic athletic movement and conditioning, about two-thirds of the workout is that and the last 30 minutes is fundamentals within that position group," said Cornelius. "We're going to stay on that schedule for a while, at least that first week as far as that 2-to-1 ratio, because we've gotta get these kids in shape and assess where they're at."
Nelson said the biggest difference between these workouts and the workouts Crestwood holds every year is just making sure he and the coaches, as well as his players, are making sure everyone is masked up.
"Little small things like reminding them to keep their masks up, when we came to the hydration station to make sure they kept six feet apart when it came to resting time," said Nelson. "I think that was the extent of it, I think practice went well for the most part. Kids were working hard, coaches kept up the intensity, but we have a long way to go."
With all the regulations in place, Crestwood's biggest obstacle had nothing to do with COVID-19. The Knights' field got hit pretty hard by all of the rain that came through in the last week, so the grass was soaked.
"That was very surprising," said Nelson. "We're going to relocate a couple of our pods to get a much drier surface to work on, because it was pretty soaked."
It was far from a regular practice, but both Cornelius and Nelson were just glad to be out on the field with their athletes again.
"It's awesome," said Cornelius. "I was on pins and needles, because every time you do something different, your comfort level might not be too high and in my 20 years of coaching, this is definitely the oddest situation I've been in as far as conditioning and practices are concerned.
"Even with all that, just to see the kids, that was great. Just so we could interact face to face, or mask to mask, I guess."
Nelson echoed that sentiment.
"I felt really blessed," said Nelson. "The opportunity to get back to doing what you love to do, but at the same time, we're just going day by day. I'm happy everything went by (Monday) with no hiccups, no issues and we're looking forward to Day 2."
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