A step toward the return of football will begin at many high schools across the country in June.
Football practice may still be months away but players will return to schools for conditioning and weightlifting in the coming weeks. Among the first to start will be Live Oak (Fla.) Suwanee High on Monday morning, which is under the direction of head coach Kyler Hall.
Suwannee High will begin with groups of five per station rotating in one-hour intervals to three designated areas: classroom, gym and weight room. After they learn about topics like concussion and heat-related illness prevention, players will move to the gym for warm-ups and change-of-direction drills before finishing with weightlifting.
Hall, who played defensive back at FSU from 2001-05, worked with Suwannee’s strength and conditioning coach, Dan Marsee, to develop a plan.
“We wanted to be prepared whenever we got the release to go,” Hall said. “He put together this great plan.”
Coaches will use forehead thermometers to record the temperature of athletes before they get started. Groups will begin at 10:15 a.m. and go to 8:15 p.m. It’s a long day but it’s a carefully planned one to keep everyone as safe as possible yet still allow coaches to get players re-acclimated to workouts.
Suwannee will be among the first schools to begin offseason workouts in the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved the re-start of youth athletics programs beginning June 1, and he has the full intent that there will be a high school football season in Florida.
The Osceola checked in with Seminoles who are now high school coaches around Florida and the feedback was varied. Corey Fuller, who coaches at Gadsden County High, says they will begin workouts on Monday. A few other examples: Public schools in Leon County and Walton County will begin conditioning and weightlifting on June 15, while Polk County’s schools will begin on July 1.
When to return and how to do it have been left up to the schools (or the districts) as they evaluate the number of cases in their area. But the plan at Suwannee High appears to be a sound one for a re-start of offseason workouts.
Suwannee High coaches began by communicating the plan via Zoom video calls to parents. They have been asked not to send students to workouts if they haven’t been feeling well or have a fever. Whether a player wears a mask is up to the parents, but players will be spaced out more than six feet apart regardless of what station they are working in.
While the workouts are spaced out at one hour, they are really cut short to 45-50 minutes per station. Extra time is allotted for trips to the bathroom to wash hands as the five players move from one station to the next on a specific route.
“The groups will never cross paths,” Hall said. “The group that is coming from the classroom, they will go to the gym, the gym goes to the weight room and then the weight room goes home.”
Suwannee High has the benefit of a newer weight room with square footage to space out athletes. The weight room features 10 platforms and the plan is to stagger five around the room. Coaches will work to clean the equipment between groups.
“That’s what you have to do during this time,” Hall said. “And honestly that’s not a bad thing to do anyway. A weight room is something that you want to keep clean.”