The University Interscholastic League (UIL), which governs most high school varsity sports and arts in the state of Texas, has approved high schools in Texas to resume both strength & conditioning and sport specific instruction at the state’s high schools beginning June 8, 2020.
This is part of an ongoing national narrative where, even when state and local governments have allowed pools to reopen, many teams are without water because many of the country’s large aquatic centers are owned by schools, which in many states are not yet open.
Under these guidelines, ‘strength and conditioning’ sessions may be no more than 2 consecutive hours per day, Monday through Friday, and that no student may attend more than one session per day.
For most sports, this will be weight room time or conditioning time, without specific sports equipment such as balls, dummies, sleds, or contact equipment being used.
- For indoor workout activities, facilities may be used up to a capacity of 25%
- Social distancing must be used unless safety considerations are in play, such as spotting a lift
- Workout stations must be spaced to allow for at least 10 feet of distance between them in all directions.
- Any equipment must be thoroughly disinfected before another student uses it.
For swimming, this conditioning time could include doing an in-water workout without stroke correction or starts, for example.
In addition to those 2 hours of general strength & conditioning work, coaches may employ up to one hour per day, for students in grades 7-12, of sport-specific instruction. In swimming, that could include, for example, specific stroke correction.
Students who are participating in multiple sports can receive up to 60 minutes per sport of sport-specific instruction, up to a maximum of 90 minutes per day.
Other Restrictions on Sport Specific Instruction:
- Drills are allowed, but not where there would be a defender in close proximity. For example, in football, no 7 on 7 or offense vs. defense drills are allowed
- Contact equipment must not be used (for example, helmets in football)
- Students and staff must remain at least 6 feet apart when not actively exercising. When actively exercising, they must remain 6 feet apart
- Students may be placed in working groups no larger than 15 total students
- Any equipment should be regularly disinfected during sessions.
- Indoor facilities should be capped at 25% capacity
In one case study, Rockwall Independent School District (ISD), which has a large aquatic center used by a local USA Swimming club, will allow some swimmers back in the water, but not all.
Specifically, the Rockwall Aquatics Center of Excellence, or RACE, uses the Rockwall ISD Aquatic Center and the club is owned by the local school district.
The team has faced some conflict with local parents, because as of now, only Rockwall ISD students in grades 7-12 are being allowed to return to the water. That means that younger students, swimmers from other districts who are members of the team, and home-schooled or online-schooled students aren’t able to resume training. This also means that college swimmers who have returned home amid the pandemic are also excluded.
The district’s athletics director Russ Reeves told SwimSwam on Saturday that this isn’t meant to exclude anyone, but instead is part of an effort to get as many swimmers back in the water as is possible. He is anticipating that they’ll be able to get about 80 to 90 of RACE’s 300 swimmers back into the water at this time.
“At this time, Rockwall ISD is only opening all of our athletic facilities in accordance with UIL/TEA guidelines,” Reeves said.
Reeves says that it was important to him that the district reopen the aquatics center along with other facilities, but that there would be wide-reaching ramifications if they allowed all RACE members to return to training right away.
All 3 of RACE’s Olympic Trials qualifiers are not current students in Rockwall ISD, and are thus not able to train with the team.
“Rockwall ISD has made a difficult decision but it is consistent with all our other District facility usage, which is very limited,” Reeves said. “We have many requests to use our facilities, not just athletic, by outside individuals and groups so by allowing the use of our facilities to anyone other than Rockwall ISD student-athletes there would be ramifications for all facilities in Rockwall ISD.”
In other words, if the district were to allow non-ISD students to use the aquatics center, they believed that this would mean that they would have to allow outside groups like churches and other organizations to resume their use of facilities, and the district isn’t prepared for that.
“Our decision has been made by looking at the totality of all our buildings,” Reeves continued. “These decisions are hard to make because we pride ourselves on accommodating the needs of all, but this new paradigm requires our decisions to address many new factors we have never had to consider before 2020.”
Guidelines from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) say that indoor facilities at schools should not be reopened to the community. An exception is made under the guidelines for UIL-approved conditioning or training programs, but require “indoor facilities to remain closed for purposes of athletic or fitness activities to unsupervised students and to the community.”
Reeves says that he understands the frustration that many swim families who aren’t yet allowed to resume using the aquatics facilities are feeling, and that he knows how hard they’ve worked. But, he also says that he views this limited opening as a good test run for their safety procedures before a wider opening.
“Rockwall, thankfully, hasn’t been hit as hard as other areas by the coronavirus, but we could, and we have to protect against that,” Reeves said. “It is our hope this partial opening will begin our journey to normal operations as quickly and safely as possible.
“Our Aquatic staff will continue to reach out virtually with the swimmers that will not be initially be able to swim in the Rockwall ISD Aquatic Center. Our staff has been doing virtual training with all our swimmers for weeks and that will continue to be provided until will can get all our R.A.C.E. swimmers back in our pool safely.”
Neil Walker, the head coach for Rockwall ISD, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States.
Rockwall County has had 164 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection leading to 13 deaths so far.