Monday, July 6, marked the first day where high school student-athletes in Indiana could start conditioning with their teams, under the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s three-phase plan to return to sports this fall.
Under this first phase, all workouts are voluntary.
“If families don’t feel safe or they’re not interested in sending their kid to work out with us, we totally understand,” says Joe Bronkella, the athletic director at Madison Consolidated High School.
He says some athletes have been working out and training on their own, maybe at a gym, during the coronavirus pandemic, but the majority of athletes have not.
“Phase One is more of a time, of a couple weeks, to ease back in to the flow, to ease ourselves back in to conditioning shape,” he said.
Bronkella says there are still many restrictions during the IHSAA’s first phase. For example, athletes are limited to just 15 hours of conditioning per week. Locker rooms remain closed as well, which has created a bit of a challenge for athletic directors.
“So we’ve designated areas where they can come in, and designate areas where they go out,” Bronkella said. “We are also not utilizing our drinking fountains, so they have to bring in their own water bottles.”
Bronkella says he is also alternating which sports can come to campus to have training and conditioning, to help limit the number of people at the school. So some teams and sports started Monday, while others won’t start until Tuesday, and will go back-and-forth throughout the week on which days they have athletes come in for workouts. He knows of other schools and athletic directors around the state that have similar plans.
He has also been coordinating with the janitorial staff at the school on when they come in to clean and sanitize different equipment and areas. To help with that, Bronkella says he’s having most, if not all, workouts be outdoors.
The hardest challenge for athletic directors during the coronavirus pandemic? Bronkella says it’s all of the unknowns that still exist.
“When you have symptoms pop up, or you have new numbers, or you have a potential of an outbreak in your community, how does that change things? What do we need to be prepared for?” he said. “Because this is something that none of us have been prepared for.”
As for the idea of high school sports returning in August, Bronkella says he’s trying to remain positive.
“I sure hope so,” he said. “I know everyone is itching to get to do their sport, and everyone is itching to watch something. I’m hopeful that we’re going to have a fall season, but, you know, at the same time, I was hopeful that we would’ve had a spring season, and it didn’t turn out that way for us.”