Fall sports open camps; await further news

Glenn Parrish
Booneville first year head coach Doc Crowely states the expectations for a particular play during a practice Monday morning.

During his coronavirus COVID-19 daily briefing Friday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave a go-ahead for the first week of practice for fall sports.

During the first week of football practices, the Arkansas Activities Association was initially permitting only helmets and limiting activity to no contract drills.

An email to coaches from the AAA later Friday clarified that to allowing shoulder pads as of today (Wednesday) with locker rooms permitted, but sanitized after each use.

Volleyball practice was also permitted on Monday, as was cheer.

However, anything after this week still has a measure of uncertainty to it as Hutchinson also deferred to the AAA to create, along with the Arkansas Department of Health, guidelines as to how to have a complete season in the safest manner.

“After first hearing the governor we were pleased to hear that games weren’t canceled and the season was scheduled to start as normal,” Booneville Schools Athletic Director Josh Walker said Friday. “Later we received further clarification on what was allowed and it was great to see that practices can resume as normal with proper COVID precautions.”

The current schedule, if it remains in tact, would include full contact practices leading up to a benefit scrimmage on Aug. 18, which is before school starts on Aug. 24.

Bands, which were anticipating an Aug. 3 practice start as well, were not expected to have complete guidance ready from the AAA and health department until, likely, today, AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said during the news conference.

Taylor was also named a member of a high school sports advisory group Hutchinson announced creation of on Friday.

That group, according to a news release from the governor’s office, is comprised of 14 physicians, mental health professionals, coaches, and educators.

“The Department of Health will continue its responsibility to provide health guidelines, and this group of experts will serve in an advisory capacity to look specifically at how we can have fall sports in the safest manner possible,” Governor Hutchinson said in the release. “We want to consider every angle to protect our athletes, cheerleaders, and band members.

“My message for the football players on Monday (was) to grab your helmet for practice and then after practice, grab a mask. Because our responsibility for safety extends beyond the practice field.”

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe will chair the group. Kelvin Gragg, superintendent of the Dumas School District, is vice chair.

Other fall sports

The AAA had previously released guidance and requirements for other fall sports including golf, tennis, and cross country.

Golf is set to begin today in Booneville with a match in Waldron, according to head coach Jake Fennell.

Tennis head coach Katelyn Holub said last week although play is permitted beginning the week of Aug. 10, she doesn’t have a match scheduled, as yet, until Sept. 1.

Cross country can begin the week of Aug. 31.

Magazine first year head coach Ryan Chambers demonstrates what he expects to be done on a particular play during a drill Monday morning.