Safety protocols in place for small ‘pods’ of athletes to work out together
The rules for workouts for high school athletes keep changing, but it remains up to each individual school district to determine if workouts are allowed on campus.
At least one local school district has permitted its programs to bring in athletes, using the strict guidelines issued by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association based on the recommendations of state and local health departments.
The Mountain View girls basketball team celebrated a workout Monday with a photo published on social media. Other teams in the Evergreen School District are also planning or have had workouts.
As of Tuesday, Vancouver, Battle Ground, and Camas schools have not given permission for workouts to resume.
It is important to note that the Evergreen workouts are just that, workouts. Not practice.
For basketball, players can work out in the “pod” structure, meaning five people at a time. Those five athletes must remain in the same pod for future workouts, as well. They must keep their social distance of at least six feet. Plus, they must continue to wear masks during the workouts.
New this week, though, is that basketballs can be passed or shared with one another in the pod, as long as athletes wash their hands before and after the workouts.
One basketball coach reported that his workout plan is to have the first pod of athletes come in for an hour. That group leaves, and 15 minutes later, the next pod arrives. There is no interaction, coming or going, between the pods on campus.
Basketball is considered a “moderate risk sport,” according to WIAA guidelines. So, too, is volleyball. Football is considered a “high risk” but the guidance has changed in football, as well, allowing players in the pods to pass or share the ball during workouts.
“If teams can have productive workouts using the guidelines put out by the WIAA, it’s a positive,” said Cale Piland, athletic director for Evergreen schools. “They’re wearing masks. They’re six feet apart.”
The workouts are optional, both for athletes and coaches.
Evergreen put out a policy stating that if athletes choose not to participate, that decision cannot be held against them, Piland said.
And not all teams are having workouts.
“This is totally optional for coaches. It’s voluntary on their part,” Piland said. “There is no expectation that they would be running workouts.”
Representatives from Vancouver, Battle Ground, and Camas districts all said Tuesday that they are not allowing workouts. The smaller school districts throughout Clark County are also on pause in terms of workouts.
One athletic director said: “We are in the unenviable position of being really jealous of the Evergreen School District.”
That AD said his district seemed to be leaning toward opening campuses for workouts in recent days. Optics of having athletes on campus but not students in school put a pause on that plan.
The Mountain View girls basketball team got some reaction on social media after posting pictures and a message on Twitter:
The Thunder team thanked the WIAA and Evergreen Schools “for putting kids first and allowing us to safely work with our student athletes. Never been more excited to get up early on a Monday morning.”
Travis Drake, a former high school athletic director and principal who is now the principal at Laurin Middle School in the Battle Ground School District, replied:
“If this can be done safely, other districts should think about following suit. I understand the optics (if we can’t be in class we can’t be in a gym), but kids are starving for victories right now, and athletics is a connection for many of our students.”
Coaches from other school districts also shared opinions. One said he was happy for the girls at Mountain View but sad for others who do not get the same opportunities. Another said she was jealous, but cheered for the WIAA and Evergreen Public Schools.
One person emailed Clark County Today to ask if it is within the rules of the WIAA for some teams to have workouts while others do not.
The WIAA has maintained throughout the pandemic that it will share the guidelines with all, but any workouts are a “district-by-district” decision. The WIAA confirmed this week that if Evergreen teams are adhering to the rules for each sport, those workouts are allowable by the WIAA.