Tahlequah High School athletics will hit the start button on Monday after a proposal set forth by athletic director Matt Cloud was approved at a Tahlequah School Board of Education meeting Thursday.
Cloud feels the time to get back for summer athletic activities is now. He’s more concerned with the psychological effects of COVID-19. He also feels there’s a need for routine again.
“I really believe that the psychological effects of this virus is going to be way greater than the physical effects,” Cloud said on Friday after meeting with coaches. “These kids haven’t been in a routine since March, and they’re looking for routine. By us starting back, we’re not putting kids at more exposure risks. They’re already out there anyway, whether they’re at the pool or the lake, or whatever. So, now we’re just providing structure for them in between hanging out with each other.”
Tahlequah’s guidelines come after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s proposal of guidelines didn’t pass in a vote held on Friday, May 22. Following the OSSAA’s attempt, superintendents and athletic directors from the state’s two largest classes — Class 5A and 6A — came to an agreement to level the playing field and to also help prevent another coronavirus spike. The two classes agreed on June 8 as the earliest start date.
Cloud isn’t concerned about being behind, although some smaller schools started back up as early as June 1. For him, it’s more about safety measures.
“We’re behind but I think we’ve got a great plan to keep kids safe,” he said. “Is it 100 percent foolproof? No, none of us at Tahlequah Public Schools are doctors. But I think we can do everything we can to ensure safety. I talked to the board last night about every time we send a bus out on the road, we’re taking a huge risk with 60 kids on a school bus on a Friday night. Everything we do has risks. All we’re trying to do is minimize the risks and get the kids back on a routine and hopefully put a good product out on the field and the courts.”
Cloud doesn’t feel discouraged by Friday’s surge in virus cases across the state. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the highest rise (222 new cases) since the start of COVID-19. There were two additional deaths and 128 recoveries, which was also a rise.
“I check that stuff everyday and I’ve been logging it,” he said. “I also log the recovery rate and I also log the death rate. It doesn’t [concern] me. I think they’re testing more people with more tests and seeing more positives, but the thing I don’t like about some of these articles that come out from the Tulsa World and the New York Times, they don’t talk about the recovery rate as much.
“Ultimately, the parents can decide if they want their kids out there or not. We will not penalize them because of that. I think we need to try to get back to some sense of normalcy. We’ve got to provide an outlet for them to have some structure.”
In a letter by Cloud on Friday to student-athletes and parents, there are eight requirements for every athlete/coach on a daily basis. The guidelines are in conjunction with Center of Disease Control (CDC), OSSAA and Tahlequah Public Schools.
Requirements for athletes and coaches include a temperature check, completion of a questionnaire, masks for all athletes not lifting or exercising, locker rooms locked with one restroom open, bring own water bottle, water station ran by coaches, weight room and used facilities wiped down every hour, and coaches will be required to wear masks at all times.
The letter also noted that if the student-athlete has a fever or answers yes to the health questions on the questionnaire, they will be asked to leave for 72 hours or have a doctor’s note to come in the next day.
It also notes that student-athletes are not required to participate and will not be punished or removed from a team when they return in the fall.
There will not be a dead period this summer, the OSSAA announced on Tuesday, June 9.
“On June 9, 2020 the OSSAA Board of Directors voted to suspend the summertime dead period for this year only,’’ the statement said. “Summertime activities will be permitted during the originally scheduled dead period, this summer only, at the discretion of the school district. All other summertime restrictions are in place, no practices may be held, etc."