Summer conditioning still on hold for area high schools

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on all youth sports, effective immediately. The decision allows travel teams in baseball and softball and Amateur Athletic Union teams in basketball, among others, to start scheduling games and tournaments during the critical summer months when most aspiring college athletes gain the most exposure. 

RELATED: Spring sports could interfere with travel ball if they resume

But the announcement does not mean high school athletic programs have the green light to start summer conditioning. 

At the high school level, summer conditioning, which mostly involves weight lifting and running for football and volleyball players, takes place in the two months before practice officially begins in late July (that date could be subject to change this year because of the coronavirus pandemic).

The Florida High School Athletic Association does not regulate those workouts other than providing guidelines on paperwork and equipment issues. The rest is left up to the school districts and private schools in each county to decide.

FHSAA public relations specialist Ashton Moseley said there is no update regarding when practices and regular seasons will take place for fall sports.

Allowing districts and private schools to set conditioning schedules creates some disparity. Calvary Christian, for example, plans to start its summer program on June 8. Clearwater Central Catholic administrators have discussed holding workouts within the next two weeks.

Public schools in area counties such as Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas are not starting before June 15. 

Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett has met with coaches, trainers and risk management officials to formulate safety guidelines for public schools to follow such as social distancing when workouts begin.

The target date for Pasco and Pinellas is July 1, nearly a month after some private schools. Even then, workouts will likely be conducted in phases with conditioning held strictly outdoors at first before allowing any weight lifting on school grounds.   

Clearwater football coach Don Mesick has a schedule full of private teams early in the season. The Tornadoes face Calvary Christian in a preseason contest, as well as Palm Bay Heritage, Jesuit and Clearwater Central Catholic within the first six weeks.

“This really puts us at a disadvantage, especially if we’re starting nearly a month later than some of those teams,” Mesick said. “The FHSAA really needs to have a uniform policy where everyone starts at the same time in the summer.”

Those conditioning sessions will be far different than years past. No locker room access. Temperatures taken upon arrival. Water stations restricted to filling up bottles provided by players. 

Other measures are being discussed to create social distancing. Armwood is even contemplating setting up weight training equipment outside and splitting the sessions into small groups.