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Schools across South Carolina have had to make difficult decisions about how and when to have their student-athletes return to school for summer workouts during the coronavirus pandemic. Some schools haven't returned yet, while others are doing everything they are allowed to by the South Carolina High School League and the South Carolina Independent School Association.
Pretty firmly in the middle of that is East Clarendon, which sees students come to school from morning to night in order to social distance effectively, which has led to some long days for athletic director and head football coach Scott Cook.
Coaches normally get to the school at 7 a.m. before workouts start at 8. EC has two morning workout sessions, before coaches get a break in the middle of the day. The kids start working out again at 5 p.m., but starting at 3 the doors are open for workouts for the faculty and staff at East Clarendon. Workouts wrap up around 8 p.m. to make for a very full day.
"When the boys are done, I catch one episode of Andy Griffith before I go to bed," said Cook with a laugh. "We just have to be ready when they call on us, with school or athletics. When they call on us, we have to be ready."
Those long days involve a lot of cleaning for Cook and his staff. The Wolverines have workout stations throughout the school to make sure everyone is social distanced, and all of those stations are cleaned before and after each use to make sure they're as clean as can be.
"I had to clean out a room in the weight room just to put all of our cleaning supplies," said Cook. "We provide masks for them, we have all the cleaning supplies at each rack and all throughout the gym and the school, and our kids have to spray down their area before they do it and after they do it.
"If you worked out on a bench and sprayed it down, I'm spraying it down again and I'm going to spray again after I work out. I couldn't tell you how much we've spent on cleaning supplies. It's aggravating to do, but it's worth it."
Workouts are currently pretty scaled back at East Clarendon, as the high school league is still in Phase 1 of its return to athletics. The Wolverines are mostly lifting weights and doing various conditioning exercises, as they are not able to use balls or other shared equipment yet. While Cook would love for his football players to throw the ball around, he's happy to be cautious.
"To me, we'd love to do more, but I can't jeopardize my kids," said Cook. "I want to get the ball out there and our other coaches want to get other equipment out there, but if I jeopardize that and someone gets sick and we lose everything, that's not worth it.
"I'm just glad to see them. To be honest, I could do this phase the rest of the summer, not having any equipment out and just having the kids come to work out because at least I get to see them."
East Clarendon is going through summer workouts as coronavirus cases continue to rise in South Carolina. The rising number of cases has caused some schools, like fellow Clarendon County school Manning, to pause their summer workouts for the time being. Cook said EC hasn't considered stopping workouts yet, but if someone gets sick, the stance will be reconsidered.
"We check the temperatures, coaches wear the masks, the kids wear the masks unless they're exercising, and we've not had a case yet," said Cook. "I think we would (reconsider doing workouts) if someone got sick. We preach to our kids to wear your mask and do what you're supposed to do, because if you don't you jeopardize everyone."
One of the main reasons Cook wants to keep summer workouts going is that he's able to interact with the kids on a daily basis and emphasize the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing.
"If those kids aren't at the school conditioning and working out, I don't know where they're at. They could be somewhere that's more contagious," said Cook. "At least there we have a trainer and a school nurse around, and we're checking temperatures and everything."
Cook also doesn't want to cancel workouts because he sees how important it is for his student-athletes to have this outlet during a difficult time.
"They've been excited. They're ready to go back to school. We have kids that hated school coming up to me saying, 'Don't make me do online school again, please, I'll do anything.' Wear your mask, keep your distance from people, it's the simple thing you can do right now. They've very excited they get to come to school."
It's impossible to predict what the sports world is going to look like a week from now, so it's even harder to make a guess on what football is going to look like, but Cook is optimistic that the Wolverines will get to play sports this fall.
"I believe the best in everything, so I really think this is all going to work out," said Cook. "I have faith that everybody is going to take care of their responsibilities and do what they're supposed do. As a country we're going to come together and beat this, and then we're going to get back to normalcy."
and have some college football, some high school football, other high school and college sports.
"I think this will all come together. I believe it's all in the Lord's hands, I believe He's going to take care of us, I believe we have to do our part. If it doesn't, the Lord has a plan for us. We'll have football this year one way or another, we'll have other sports, but the main thing right now is let's come together as a country, let's do it for these kids."
In the meantime, Cook is making sure his athletes are ready when they're called upon.
"I think it's all going to come together, I really do. Our kids are looking forward to it. We preach on a daily basis to be ready when you're called on. Don't sit around not doing stuff - we give them stuff to do at home too, like pushups and body weights - do this stuff so when they say they're going to let us start next Monday, then we've got three weeks then it's games, we're going to be ready."
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