Sports in Hillsborough County got a thumbs up this fall, and the county has come up with a list of guidelines so that everyone involved can be safe in the midst of the pandemic. The fall sports began practice on August 24, with competitions starting on September 8.
The Newsome football program is one of many sports programs in the county trying to navigate through these circumstances. Head Coach C.J. Yockey is worried about the season potentially ending early because of the pandemic and is encouraging his players to not only be leaders on the field, but in the classroom as well.
“I hope we can make it through our season. We must do our part when the kids are with us,” said Yockey. “Our kids must do their part when they are at home. They need to be leaders in their classrooms, they need to help our teachers sanitize their rooms, they need to help teachers enforce the hand sanitizer policies, they need to make sure kids are following mask protocols at school and following traffic patterns in the hallway. Our kids want to play, so they are willing to do anything to try to avoid a shutdown.”
The district created the Fall Sports Task Force that came up with a list of concerns that it needed to address in order to keep the athletes safe.
The following safety protocols will be in place for athletic practices: athletes will maintain social distancing when feasible; daily cleaning procedures for athletic equipment and locker rooms remain in effect; coaches are responsible for tracking attendance for the purpose of noting potential COVID-19 cases; all athletic facilities, including locker rooms and the athletic trainer’s office, will be open; the use of water coolers and water cows are allowed; restrooms in the locker rooms can be used, with no more than 10 people in the space at a time; and handshakes and high fives are not permitted.
Spectators are permitted if the procedures are followed. Masks are required when on Hillsborough County Public School (HCPS) property. Each athlete will have the opportunity to select four spectators that will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to attend home games. Participants’ spectator pods will be required to sit together, and all home facilities (bleachers, stands, gyms) will be clearly marked to adhere to social distancing.
HCPS has partnered with the NFHS Network to stream each live contest. Cameras have been installed at each school stadium and inside each gym so friends and family members who can’t make the game will not miss a single play.
All football games and volleyball matches will be streamed. An annual pass costs $69, and a monthly pass costs $10. Visit NFHSNetwork.com and search for your school for more information.
Yockey is both anxious and excited for the season to start. He is proud of his team’s preparation during these uncertain times and thinks it will pay dividends in not only improving their skills, but also in avoiding a shutdown.
“I am looking forward to seeing our kids grow up and show their toughness. These kids are resilient, and they have stepped up and policed one another all off-season,” said Yockey. “I can’t wait to see how much our off-season work is going to help us during the season. We can’t wait to show how much we have grown as a program and want to build off of last season’s success. None of this will happen if we don’t continue to follow our protocols and stay healthy.”