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Student athletes face COVID-19 and the Florida heat; only outdoor workouts allowed

A spike in coronavirus cases is impacting student athlete training this summer.

COVID-19 is changing how student athletes get ready for the fall season. And with the spike in positive cases, some school districts are taking a step backward in their phased plans for training this summer.

The National Federation of State High School Associations released some pretty strict suggestions for COVID-19 safety, like pre-workout screenings for all coaches and students -- with a temperature check.

They also recommend cleaning all athletic equipment after every use and conducting workouts in “pods” with the same 5-10 students always working out together.

There’s a whole list of suggestions; but in the end, the association is leaving it up to each district to create their own rules.

Both Manatee and Sarasota County Schools used these guidelines to create their own "return to training" plan.

It’s in three phases.

In Sarasota, they had just advanced to Phase 2 on Monday June 29 with all facilities back open and “equipment use allowed.” The only restriction: a limit of 2.5 hours total of workouts on campus per day.

But due to increased COVID-19 cases and safety concerns, the “Return to Action Plan” for Sarasota County school student athletes returned to Phase 1 on Wednesday.

“Number one is the safety of our students. We want to keep our student athletes and our coaches safe,” Athletic Director Pete Dombroski said.

Dombroski is the athletic director for Venice High School. He says indoor activities are suspended until further notice.

Phase 1 only allows workouts four days a week, and it must be done outdoors.

With training exercises going back outside, there becomes a new challenge to face…the Florida heat.

The Florida High School Athletic Association instituted a policy where schools must use a wet bulb to determine the outdoor temperature. When the temperature rises above 92.1 degrees, all outdoor activities must cease.

In order to follow this policy, Dombroski says they hold student workouts during the cooler parts of the day.

“Luckily our coaches do a great job of setting up practices, so the heat doesn’t really come into play,” Dombroski said. “We start around 7:30/8:00 in the morning or a team can meet at 6:00/7:00 at night when it’s cooler.

And he says the biggest things they remind students of is hydration.

“When our student athletes need water, they go get it,” Dombroski said.

Outdoor workouts are not ideal, but coaches are getting creative to keep students active and give them a sense of normalcy.

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