Sumter School District allows conditioning to begin; teams to start up on Monday


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While Sumter School District announced on Monday it will allow fall sports teams at its three high schools to begin Phase 1.5 conditioning on Tuesday, all of three of the football programs and the other fall sports programs at two of the schools will wait until Monday before beginning conditioning.

In a press release from Superintendent Dr. Penelope Knox-Martin, the district said conditioning could begin on Tuesday. That would allow the Sumter, Lakewood and Crestwood fall sports teams to begin conditioning for the upcoming school year, after the South Carolina High School League said in early June schools could begin conditioning but Sumter School District chose not to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the wait has been long, Sumter and Lakewood will not begin conditioning until Monday, according to its athletic directors. Crestwood chose not to officially say what its plans are, but the Facebook page for the school's football program said it will begin conditioning on Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sumter athletic director Curtis Johnson and Lakewood AD Shannon Murray said they are taking the extra days to make sure things are in proper order before starting.

"We're waiting until the moment where we can meet as coaching staff and make sure everything is laid out exactly how we want it," Johnson said. "We want to make sure we put the student-athletes in the best position possible."

"We've had plans throughout the whole time, and we're waiting just to make sure that before we get started that we are on top of it so we can make it as safe as possible for our players and our coaches," said Shannon Murray, who was hired as the Lakewood AD just a few months ago. "We want to be as organized as we can be to make sure we have all the supplies we need to make it work."

Both Johnson and Murray said they were going to meet with the head coaches of their fall sports programs on Tuesday to set up conditioning schedules beginning on Monday.

Sumter offers football, volleyball, girls golf, girls tennis, cross country, swimming and competitive cheer in the fall. Both Lakewood and Crestwood offer football, volleyball, cross country and competitive cheer in the fall.

Sumter High will be holding physicals at the school from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

The SCHSL allowed Phase 1 workouts to begin in early June after the shutdown due to the pandemic at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Phase 1 included conditioning and weightlifting in pods of no more than 10 people. The SCHSL allowed the schools that had been holding conditioning workouts to move to Phase 1.5 in the last few weeks. Phase 1.5 allows pieces of equipment from the respective sports to be implemented into the workouts.

In Monday's release, it was stated, "Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees and staff. We will continue to monitor data from DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) and exercise safety measures that have been put in place by CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and DHEC and outlined in our high school return-to-play plans. The South Carolina High School League has established a schedule for the start dates for practices; however, these dates will be contingent upon the high risk COVID-19 status in the Sumter community. We ask for your patience and understanding as we continue to implement procedures to safeguard our athletes and staff."

The release also stated certain guidelines that student-athletes, coaches and staff will need to follow. The list includes:

- Parents will sign a waiver prepared by the district in order for their student to participate in any activity.

- All staff and athletes will be screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to each practice.

- All athletes, coaches, and staff will be required to wear a face covering.

- All athletes and staff should continue to follow current CDC advice related to COVID-19 prevention including staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, avoiding touching face, and practicing social distancing.

- Athletes should bring personal water bottles and face masks to each workout and not share these items with anyone. There can be no shared water, food, face masks, sunscreen/lotions, make-up products, etc.

- Facilities and high touch surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized often.

- Staff will monitor heat conditions and have Emergency Action Plans in place for all activities.

- Group sizes for conditioning should be limited to 16 persons per facility including coaches and staff.

- When using weight rooms, practicing calisthenics, running, or other conditioning training where vigorous exercise occurs, proper spacing from others must be maintained by working out with a 12 foot minimum between each person. (This may require restricting the use of or moving some equipment.)

The release also pointed out that following the required precautions does not mean that transmission of the virus will not occur. It asks that students who either have pre-existing medical conditions that place them at higher risk of infection or who do not want to risk contracting COVID-19 should refrain from participating in the fall sports programs.

Last week, the SCHSL pushed back the start of practice for the football season from Aug. 17 to Sept. 8. The date of the first possible game was moved from Sept. 11 to Sept. 25.

As far as the other fall sports, girls golf, swimming and girls tennis can hold its first practice on Aug. 17. Each can hold scrimmages starting on Aug. 24, and the first-regular season contest can be held beginning on Aug. 31.

Cross country and volleyball can begin practice on Aug. 24 with the first day for scrimmages Aug. 31 and the first day for regular-season competition on Sept. 7.

Competitive cheer can begin practice on the same day at football, Sept. 8, but it won't have its first contest until Oct. 13.