Bobcat Football Season A Tentative ‘Go’

Ken MClemore

HOPE – Hope Public Schools Co-Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Phillip Turner said today the Hope High School Bobcats varsity and junior varsity football teams tentatively anticipate playing a regular season in 2020.
“Until the Arkansas Activities Association lets us know otherwise, our plan is to keep it the same; until they notify us,” Turner said.
Guidance for fall athletics from the AAA has centered upon a statement issued by the school sports governing body on July 7.
“The Arkansas Activities Association is preparing to resume activities and athletics this Fall in accordance with the regular AAA calendar,” the statement said. “These preparations are contingent upon compliance with all directives as issued by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Health.”
The AAA said the plan is based, in part, upon consultation with other agencies and sports activities governing bodies in the Southcentral United States.
“In collaboration with the NFHS, AAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, Coach’s and Official’s Advisory Committees, and other affiliative activity committees, plans are being formulated to comply with all directives and safely return to participation,” the statement said.
“All states contiguous to Arkansas have indicated they are making similar plans to begin as scheduled this Fall. Plans are also being discussed at all levels in regard to adjustments to the calendar if necessary.”
Turner said the Bobcats are planning to play a full schedule with the exception of the annual scrimmage game on Aug. 18. He noted that date fell before the announced new target date for the start of school on Aug. 24, as set last week by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
The Cats take on Little Rock Hall in the first non-conference game Aug. 28, and are scheduled to conclude the regular season away against Magnolia on Nov. 6.
The Bobcats have been fully involved in the Phase I return to off-season workouts since July 6.
“Our kids are really working,” Turner said. “They’re working and using their masks; they’ve responded well.”
He said the use of face masks and other mandatory guidance in “social distancing,” personal hydration and other requirements have not hindered workouts.
“The masks really haven’t bothered them,” Turner said. “Some parents haven’t allowed their kids to come out, yet; and, it’s not mandatory that they come out, and we understand that.”
Mandatory participation workouts do not begin until after the start of school. However, the off-season conditioning workouts will continue through July 24, shifting to two hours per day through July 17, then two and a half hours daily from July 20-22 and to three hours from July 23-24.
Turner said HHS varsity will work out at 8 a.m. and junior high will work out at 10 a.m.
The AAA has issued a series of Frequently Asked Questions regarding all sports participation, including guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health in consultation with Hutchinson’s office, as follows:

–When can a AAA member school begin summer activities?
AAA member schools may begin limited summer activities June 1. Please communicate with your local administration regarding when your school will resume activities.

–Who is responsible for implementation of the directive?
It is the responsibility of the local school district administration to monitor implementation of the directive from the Arkansas Department Health.

–Are the directives different for each sport?
Yes. The sports are grouped into two categories: Close-Contact and Limited-Contact Team Sports. Schools must follow the directives that specifically apply to each category.

–What sports are in the close-contact team sports category?
Basketball, Wrestling, Football, Cheerleading, Dance, Volleyball, and Soccer.

–What sports are in the limited-contact team sports category?
Baseball, Softball, Golf, Track and Field, Cross Country, Bowling, Tennis, Gymnastics, Shooting Sports, Swimming, Individual Dance Competitions.

–Can you use a ball in the close-contact team sports?
Yes, with restrictions. Participants can use a ball as long as the participants maintain the 12 feet distancing.

–The Close-Contact directive states that participants should use their own equipment if possible. Can they use school equipment?
Yes, as long as the equipment is sanitized between uses.

–The Limited-Contact directive states that participants should use their own equipment if possible. Can they use school equipment?
Yes, if shared equipment is used, disinfection is required frequently during each event or between each use.

–Do we have to wear masks in the dugout?
The directive states that face coverings are strongly encouraged outdoors.

–Can we use handheld, rolling or stand-up dummies during football practice?
No. It would be impossible to sanitize each piece of equipment between each contact with coaches and participants.

–Can close-contact team sports use agile dummies, ropes, ladders, boxes, etc. on the ground for agility drills?
Yes. All equipment must be sanitized between practice.

–Do spotters in the weight-room have to wear masks?
The directive states that face coverings are strongly encouraged when not actively participating in an outdoor activity. Face Coverings must be worn during indoor sports where a face covering is not inhibitory.

–Is there a limit on how many participants may attend each practice session in close-contact team sports?
No. The number of participants allowed to attend depends on the amount of space available. Six-foot distancing when inactive and twelve-foot distancing when actively participating. The only exception to the 12-foot rule is spotters on the end of a bar.

–Do close-contact team sports have to follow the acclimatization protocol as issued by the AAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee?

–If a student is involved in more than one close-contact team sport, do they still have same acclimatization time limitations for practice?
Yes, the guideline regarding the time limit pertains to a student athlete per day regardless of the number of activities he or she participates in.

–Can we wear football helmets during phase 1?
No. Availability and sanitation required make the use of helmets impractical during this phase.

–How long are these measures in place?
The Department of Health has indicated that these measures will be reevaluated on June 30.

–What are the ramifications of violating the directives?
The school could be placed on warning or probation by the AAA. Furthermore, individuals may be in violation of the Code of Ethics for violations of a state directive.

–Is there a 14-day quarantine period requirement after a participant goes out of state?

–Are students required to have an up to date physical?
Yes, by AAA bylaw physicals are valid for 12-15 months.

–Can you have an open gym/field and allow students to shoot, serve, dribble, etc.?
Yes, as long as the directives regarding distancing, equipment use, acclimatization time limits and all other restrictions are followed.

–For close-contact sports, what are the most important items to consider?
Maintain 12 feet distancing while actively participating, 6 feet while idle, masks are encouraged when not actively participating.

–For limited-contact sports, what are the most important items to consider?
Maintain 12 feet distancing while actively participating in conditioning training, 6 feet while practicing, competing or when idle, masks are encouraged when not actively participating, use your own equipment when possible and disinfect shared equipment frequently or between each use.

–Do coaches and staff really have to wear a face covering at all times?
The directive states that face coverings are strongly encouraged when not actively participating in an outdoor activity. Face Coverings must be worn during indoor sports where a face covering is not inhibitory.

–For the limited-contact sports, can a school coach or registered volunteer begin practice now with a non-school team?
No. The current Special Dead Period remains in effect until May 30. Also, all school facilities should remain closed.

–For limited-contact team sports that are allowed to return to competition June 1, what restrictions apply?
The current AAA Dead Period and the guidelines set forth by the Governor’s Executive Order 20-03 must be followed through May 30th. When the Dead Period is lifted after May 30th, the following AAA rules would apply:

Non-School Teams

–If the non-school team is coached or managed in any manner by a school coach (licensed coach, registered volunteer, or anyone affiliated with the school in any capacity), the athletic release form must be signed.
–No school equipment (uniforms, bats, balls, helmets, etc.) or school funding can be used.
–School transportation and facilities may only be used in accordance with school board policies as they relate to any other non-school groups using transportation or facilities.
–Graduated seniors who participate would qualify the team as a non-school team.

School Teams
–School teams are teams solely composed of currently enrolled students from one district or attendance zone and coached by a school coach or registered volunteer.
–Each day of participation will count as one of the 8 allowable summer competition days.
–School equipment, transportation and facilities can be utilized.

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