When the UIL announced that high schools could conduct limited summer workouts on June 8, Little Elm head football coach Kendrick Brown and his staff went to work.
Meetings with administrators, trainers and fellow coaches encompassed the weeks leading up to June 8, as Brown and the Lobos crafted a strength and conditioning regiment that fit the parameters put in place by the UIL due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did a lot of meeting, talking and collaborating just to make sure we were good,” Brown said. “Things like checking kids in, pre-screening kids, checking for what they have and if they’ve been around anyone who has symptoms, making sure you’ve got the right amount of kids inside and outside.
“It’s good to be back to work, but it hasn’t been the easiest thing.”
As Little Elm enters its third week of workouts, Brown said the players have handled the transition well — working toward the hope of playing out their respective sports in the fall. Like most programs around the state, getting kids to adhere to social distancing has required some extra attention to detail, however.
“I think our biggest thing so far has been breaks. During breaks, they all want to get together and you’ve got to be constantly reminding them about social distancing,” Brown said. “The conditioning aspect of it hasn’t been that bad since we’re on the football field and you can keep your distance.”
Workouts require weights and equipment to be sprayed down and cleaned after use and that players sanitize their hands between stations. Athletes who are spotting during lifting sessions are required to wear a mask.
One thing the Lobos have implemented for their workouts, particularly during their 30 minutes of football-specific skill work, is splitting student-athletes into small groups and keeping any activity or use of specific equipment within that particular cluster.
“Each group has to use the same footballs and if they move they take the balls with them,” Brown said. “When groups are working out, they have to move together. They’re in small pods, really.”
With no drills allowed that encourage physical contact, Brown said that sharpening things like footwork have taken on a greater emphasis for his players.
“Our offensive line can be 6 feet apart and still work things like zone steps, pull steps and the technique,” Brown said. “The defensive line can do some block recognition, plus defensive backs can do drills with footwork. I think when you look at the footwork aspect of it, it’s been great. I think you can do all the footwork needed for football, but one thing that it’d be good to get back to is some physicality.”
As teams cling to optimism that a return to normalcy isn’t too far off, they’re mindful of just what they’re up against. As coronavirus numbers continue to rise, several high schools in the Metroplex have already had to suspend workouts following a positive test from one of its student-athletes, including nearby programs at Denton and Braswell.
“Honestly, we’re just trying to do our due diligence. You can do everything right and somebody still gets it,” Brown said. “Those kids are leaving us and especially on weekends they’re doing club sports and other things that have opened. We’re being strict about the rules, but the kids could still be bringing it back to us and we don’t even know.”
Prior to each workout, Little Elm student-athletes are screened and fill out a questionnaire detailing any symptoms they may be experiencing. Brown said a few kids have been flagged for having “been around people who have been around other people who have the virus” and subsequently sent home as a precaution.
“Everybody is trying to do the same thing. We just hope we don’t get something that would require our school to shut down,” Brown said. “It’s happening somewhere each day and you don’t want that. That’s the biggest fear as a head coach — you hate to be shut down while everyone else is still working.”