Starting date for non-contact football workouts still uncertain

Campbell receiver Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala took a handoff during a football scrimmage in 2019. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Football coaches across the state are asking, and there is still no definite date for the re-start of high school football practice.

All they know is, there is hope if the number of new cases of COVID-19 can decrease significantly as the state implements mass testing.

There are ifs aplenty across the board. If schools reopen in October, then air riflery and bowling may be able to start on schedule. The chances are “good,” Hawaii High School Athletic Association Executive Director Chris Chun said.

“It depends on what date schools open,” Chun added.

The possibility for no-contact football workouts would then be possible, but Chun said there is a complex list of requirements.

“No contact, yes, but it still depends on leagues. If there’s contact, it would depend on (the Department of Health),” he said.

State Rep. Chris Todd coached at Hilo for a decade before stepping down as offensive coordinator. Hilo won two of the last three Division I state championships.

“I believe the HHSAA and DOE should issue firm guidelines on how workouts can be conducted and provide regular oversight to ensure that proper precautions are being taken. If we are placing restrictions on how many athletes can participate in a weight training session, who is enforcing this? What we don’t want is 40 high school football teams operating 40 different ways,” Todd said. “Football coaches come from all sorts of backgrounds, but I don’t believe any of us are epidemiologists. We shouldn’t be expected to develop our own health protocols.”

Todd has been cautious about the state’s approach to the pandemic.

“In a best-case scenario, case numbers are low and school campuses re-open in October. Is it still realistic for air riflery and bowling to start as scheduled? I personally feel that schools should not open up this semester, but if they do then it seems reasonable for riflery and bowling to start early because they don’t require long scheme/strategy installation periods like most team sports,” he said.

Football, Todd noted, is the sport that requires the most preparation time.

“Football typically requires three weeks of organized practice before players are eligible to play games, and that doesn’t factor in the need to prepare an athlete’s body properly. I also feel sports like tennis could start up with little trouble after a brief conditioning period,” he said. “And it is reasonable to try moderate-risk sports like softball and baseball.”

Todd is as willing to be flexible as he is careful.

“My preference from the beginning was that we abandon the traditional sports calendar and reassign seasons based on risk factor. All low-risk sports should be the first to start regardless of whether they were originally played in the fall, winter or spring,” he said. “We cannot assume that we will have clearance to have high school sports from now through May. It makes more sense to me to get in the lowest-risk sports first and play the remainder if the COVID-19 outlook is better down the road. Softball and baseball appear to be relatively low risk provided that proper precautions are taken.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said last month that a new-case number of 70 per day would possibly make it manageable enough to re-open.

“I am not qualified to say definitively whether reopening campuses is the right public health decision or not,” Todd said. “But I think it’s reasonable to assume that we will see additional COVID-19 transmission if we reopen campuses. One issue with the new sliding scale released by the State is that it could put us into a constant state of flux where we are opening schools and seeing case counts go up, then closing them and seeing them go down over and over again. I don’t believe that number (70 new cases) is sustainable once schools reopen.”


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