By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
As school districts have turned to virtual learning and classrooms amid the COVID-19 outbreak, local athletic departments are now pivoting toward much of the same. Those same district officials are also beginning to make tough decisions related to annual spring athletics events, namely spring football.
The new ways to reach athletes in Ellis County have ranged from Twitter challenges to full-fledged applications that can be downloaded directly to a device.
The UIL, which has already suspended all sanctioned activities through May 4, issued a release Tuesday that informed superintendents and athletic directors that “remote learning/coaching of UIL activities is allowed through electronic, video or teleconferencing-type methods.”
“Schools shall limit instruction for UIL activities to a maximum of eight hours per week per activity, in addition to a maximum of sixty minutes per day, Monday through Friday,” the release continued. “For athletic activities that are out of season, schools shall limit remote instruction to a maximum of sixty minutes per day Monday through Friday.”
For local athletic programs, that means the learning curve has to be short if there is any hope of having a leg up this spring or next fall. The former is, of course, assuming the UIL will allow athletic programs to return to some sort of competition before the summer months.
At this point, a return to springtime competition is a longshot — but hope remains, and that’s as vital an outlook now more than ever.
As of Tuesday evening, coaches within Waxahachie ISD Athletics were still working on getting in contact with all student-athletes during their time away from the playing field.
“Student-athletes: Waxahachie coaches and teachers have been working tirelessly to get in contact with you,” the WISD Athletics department tweeted. “If you have not heard from your coaches or teachers, be proactive and reach out to them.”
Several district athletic programs have already begun to push workout plans to social media, as well.
There are also some football programs around the area, like Midlothian High, that have already canceled spring practices.
“There is so much uncertainty right now,” Midlothian head football coach Doug Wendel stated in his “Inside the Huddle” newsletter. “The UIL announced that they would push the first possible restart day for any spring sports competition to May 4. It is in the best interest of our program to NOT have spring football.”
The Panthers, as well as any other program that decides to cancel spring drills, will begin fall practices Monday, Aug. 3. The decision will also afford those programs one additional scrimmage for a total of two.
Waxahachie has since followed suit, which allowed the two to schedule a preseason scrimmage against one another. That game is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 14 at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium. The time and format are still to be determined.
Midlothian and Waxahachie are the lone football program to officially forgo the spring period as of end-of-day Wednesday, March 25.
Wendel added that the Panthers will use the mandatory break as “opportunity to grow our teams’ character and motivation.” Beginning Monday, 9-12 student-athletes in the football program will start receiving a “2-word” video or motivational reading and a question to answer.
“That will be their daily assignment,” Wendel explained. “I want to encourage parents and student-athletes to discuss together this assignment daily. Discussion will help with accountability. Physically, we would like the athletes to be doing something! We have put out on social media and remind daily workouts. Those are suggestions. We strongly suggest setting aside a time of day for physical activity/exercise. Develop great habits!”
Wendel added that assistant coach Corey Anderson will post daily character development and workouts on the team’s Canvas page, which can be found at misd.instructure.com/login/ldap.
Life Waxahachie assistant football coach Wade McKee, who also serves as the school’s strength and conditioning coach, first alert parents and student-athletes of a new downloadable tool for the Mustangs over the weekend.
“We will use Rack Performance to ensure that our athletes have strength and conditioning training that will help keep our athletes in shape during this extended period,” McKee stated via a district-issued social media release. He noted that student-athletes can download the Rack Performance app on any Apple IOS or Android device.
According to McKee, the app features workout timers and plans that are typically used during the athletic period.
For any Life Waxahachie parent or student-athlete in need of the login information for the Rack Performance app, email coach McKee at email@example.com.
If any Ellis County athletic program needs to utilize KBEC Sports or KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM to reach student-athletes and/or their parents, please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the latest COVID-19 information related to the UIL, visit www.uiltexas.org/athletics/covid-19-information.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith