Florida Schools’ Athletic Programs Prepare To Return For Fall

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Almost four months have passed since the coronavirus accelerated across the United States, leading to a worldwide pause on sports.

Today, professional leagues like the NBA and NHL are organizing team practice dates and rescheduling games without fans.

Meanwhile, Florida high schools, state universities and colleges are implementing alternate methods that will keep the staff, students and student-athletes safe during the pandemic if games and practices are scheduled during the school year.

(Daniel Scherlacher/WUFT News)

The University of Florida’s University Athletic Association shared during its presentation of their “Return to Campus Plan” that the first sport to return — football — will focus on the risk mitigation for athletes and implement a tracing program through the Florida Department of Health to monitor them.

David Werner, University of Florida Associate Athletics Director, said when the athletes leave the facilities, “they are kind of on their own,” and it will be essential to make sure they know what’s at stake if they’re out with other people.

Werner says that they are spending a lot of time educating the athletes on how the coronavirus spreads, and how it can affect athletes individually if contacted with the virus.

“We want to make sure that they feel good about coming back to campus and that they’re not worrying as some people have really worried through this whole pandemic,” Werner said.

“We have hand washing, hand sanitizers and stations all through the weight room. The workouts will take into consideration the physical distancing, staying six feet apart,” he said.

Santa Fe College Athletics Director Jim Keites said the school formed a “Return to Campus Action Team” that has developed and proposed plans to their administration.

“It’s hard to cover everything, and things change every day. But we’re trying to do enough research to look at what other institutions are doing and cover all the different scenarios to make it as safe as possible for our student-athletes to come back to campus,” Keites said.

Keites said the college often watches UF’s administration preparation for student-athletes because they do things right.

Elizabeth LeClear, principal of Santa Fe High School, explained that active programs like football, volleyball, cheerleading and band are following safety guidelines and are social distancing.

Below: LeClear explains the specific precautions being taken for some of their active programs.

LeClear says there is a very high expectation of student behavior at the high school, and her new cleaning protocols are heavily guided.

“When the kids are done, they wipe everything down for the next group,” she said. “And then our custodians go in, and there is intensive cleaning every day.”

“All through the day, the custodians will be wiping touch areas. They’ll be redoing bathrooms every period,” she said.

LeClear says her faculty and herself are wearing masks to show by example to their students and she is not worried that the kids won’t do what they’re supposed to do.

High school sports had been scheduled to resume today statewide. But Thursday night, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board voted to delay the first day of practices to Aug. 24, with games pushed to mid-September or later.

About Daniel Scherlacher

Daniel is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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