Hart district coaches, students prepare to return to athletic conditioning

Members of the Valencia High School cross-country team get together without their coach to train at Central Park in mid-December. 121520

After the vote to resume athletic conditioning was approved by the governing board, athletic directors from the William S. Hart Union High School District prepared to begin training this week.

With the intent to keep students and coaches safe during the pandemic, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health set a list of guidelines that are required to be followed by everyone partaking in athletic conditioning.

“Everything is going to be done outside,” said Dave Caldwell, spokesman for the district. “Masks are going to be worn, and the (district’s) board made it a point to make conditioning optional for both students and coaches.”

The district’s board of trustees voted 3-1 to allow athletic conditioning to resume during the board meeting last Wednesday.

The vote comes as the county Public Health Department listed strict health and safety protocols specific to youth sports on its website, which only allow training, conditioning and skill-building activities. Contact sports are currently unable to practice in the same manner prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and competitions are prohibited.

“It looks like it’s going to be mostly fitness training and individual skill building,” said Keith Matkin, athletic director for William S. Hart High School. “It’s not going to look like a normal practice. When we were conditioning in the fall, before winter break, we followed a number of protocols that included things like distancing and wearing a mask, so that’s what we’ll be requiring again.”

Public Health requires masks be worn by students and coaches while conditioning, but cautions that if difficulty breathing occurs, students should take breaks and change disposable face masks frequently.

Similar to small cohorts for in-person instruction, students in athletic conditioning are allowed to practice in “pods,” which allow only a certain number of students to condition together in a group.

“Most pods are kept to about 10 students,” said Kristan Hinze, assistant principal at West Ranch High School, who also oversees the athletic department. “Everyone is required to keep an 8-foot distance and face masks must be worn at all times unless athletes are doing a physical exertion exercise, like running, and in that case they must be distanced from others.”

Among mask mandates, students and coaches are also required to physically distance between one another, take health screens for COVID-19 symptoms, and only partake in conditioning outdoors.

“Athletes and coaches will have to complete a pre-authorization, which is basically a series of questions to make sure they don’t have any COVID(-19) symptoms and they’re not required to be under the quarantine guidelines,” said Hinze.

Public Health also encourages students to bring their own sports equipment to reduce transmission between players or frequently disinfect shared equipment. Hinze said coaches are equipped to disinfect shared equipment 

“Before winter break, we were able to practice in groups as long as groups weren’t being switched up and everyone used the same equipment,” Matkin said. “We’re still not sure if that will be the case when we begin (this) week, and we’re having a meeting to discuss it. But either way, I’m glad the district is allowing students to get back to conditioning.”

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