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Bath, ME (August 14, 2020) – Ninety student-athletes from Morse High School returned to McMann Field on July 6 for the first day of organized training and conditioning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reintroduction marked the first day of a four-phase sports remobilization plan designed by the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA)* and a much-appreciated return to normalcy for athletes and their parents.
From July 6 to July 19, students focused on conditioning, strength training, agility, and individual skill activities led by Morse Athletic Director Nathan Priest and Athletic Training Coordinator Santana Wilson. Students were divided into “pods” of 10 to limit their exposure to others, and required to fill out a health questionnaire no sooner than one hour before practice.
“We’ve been very diligent about making sure our kids and coaches are following MPA guidelines,” explained Priest. “We ask that students and coaches wear masks coming and off the field, and use the hand sanitizing stations we have available. If students indicate that they are feeling unwell, they are sent home.”
Phase two (July 20 to August 2) and three (August 3 to August 23) focused on a cautious return to outdoor sports-specific activities.
Brianna Bigelow, assistant coach of the varsity softball team, said her athletes were excited to return to the field even though they had to wait several weeks to use a bat or ball. “We don’t know what the season will look like yet, but this is giving the girls something to work toward,” she said.
When Morse High School transitioned to remote learning on March 13 the team lost their entire spring season. Senior Brook Kulis said she is hoping for an active fall season, but is “just happy and grateful to be doing something.”
As important as these practices have been their students’ physical health, Priest said that the opportunity to socialize has also been vital for students’ mental health.
“I don’t think we understood the true value of getting kids back together and participating in an activity,” Priest said. “I’ve received emails from parents saying how grateful they are that their kids are back out and interacting with their friends.”
Phase four of the remobilization plan (August 24 to September 7) will feature extended conditioning and acclimatization for fall sports only (football, soccer, field hockey, cross-country, volleyball, and golf.) More details about the fall season will be available at that time.
Priest has been impressed by the adaptability of coaches and students to new procedures and restrictions. “We’ve had to recreate the wheel to develop new objectives and meet safety standards this summer. Given the circumstances and scenario, everyone is doing a great job,” he said. “My message to the athletes is that we cannot control what’s going to happen with sports this fall, but we can control ourselves. That means we need to be responsible, take [COVID-19] seriously, and show everyone else that we’re going to do what we need to do to play.”
Photo: Senior Brook Kulis and teammates at practice at Tainter Field
*The MPA notes that their recommendation and guideline document was created “using the latest research and guidelines and best practice from the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), the Maine Department of Education (DOE), the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) Sports Medicine Committee, as well as emerging guidance from local and federal government.”