Starting Aug. 3, athletes can share equipment such as footballs, basketballs and volleyballs within "small groups/pods" under the NCHSAA's newly released Phase Two guidelines for workouts.
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Starting Aug. 3, athletes can share equipment such as footballs, basketballs and volleyballs within "small groups/pods" while maintaining 6 feet of physical distance under the Phase Two guidelines for workouts the NCHSAA released Tuesday morning.
The NCHSAA also reiterated it "remain(s) committed to administering sports/activities this fall, provided it can be done safely and in accordance with guidance from our state educational and medical partners. Decisions relative to the September 1 start date, will be made later in August."
And "coaches of schools that have not participated in Phase One are strongly encouraged to ensure a gradual return to activities," the NCHSAA said, "considering the condition of students who may have been physically inactive this summer."
The association released the Phase Two guidelines two weeks after it delayed the start of official fall sport tryouts and practices until at least Sept. 1. NCHSAA member schools have been allowed to operate under Phase One guidelines, which notably banned the sharing of equipment, since June 15.
But many districts, including larger ones in the state, remained on pause, which the NCHSAA allowed from the start. Chatham County Schools, which initially held off three weeks for preparation, started Phase One workouts on July 6 at Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central, and suspended them indefinitely on July 17.
Chatham Charter and Woods Charter have been holding workouts since June 15 and July 6, respectively.
Under the Phase Two guidelines, which were approved by the NCHSAA Board of Directors on July 23, wearing protective equipment such as helmets and pads is still prohibited, and the same main limits remain.
All participants will get temperature checks and screening questions before entering workouts. There can be no more than 25 people in outdoor settings and no more than 10 indoor; no workouts can last longer than 90 minutes; and athletes cannot make physical contact for one another.
But, notably, the NCHSAA will now allow athletes to share equipment within those small pods.
In football, for example, that would clear the way for quarterbacks to throw passes to wide receivers. In volleyball, players within the same pod could hit a ball back and forth over a net. And in basketball, players in a pod could utilize socially distanced passing, shooting and rebounding drills.
In accordance with previous guidelines, any equipment from a pod must be disinfected before use by another pod.
"The Phase Two guidance is intended to help you continue or begin to navigate a gradual reopening of high school sports, while helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the association said in a memo. "The NCHSAA Board of Directors understands that implementation decisions schools make this summer regarding sports and other co-curricular activities will potentially impact the upcoming school year. Thus, it is important that you adhere to this current guidance."