RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Now, it’s everyone. Contact sports, too.
High school student-athletics in football, soccer, basketball and wrestling have started out-of-season workouts, for which their coaches are thankful.
Those four contact sports have been shut down since early July.
The emphasis remains on individual skills and conditioning, with no scrimmages or competition.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s latest update on youth sports on Sept. 17 increased the pod size in workouts to no more than 10 – that’s a combination of coaches and athletes.
That decision allowed the New Mexico Activities Association to give a green light to all its member schools to stage out-of-season workouts immediately in the four contact sports, starting Sept. 18.
And even better, teams around the state in basketball, football and soccer will be allowed to share a ball in workouts, which hasn’t been permitted — officially — at any point during this pandemic shutdown. That means, for example, that quarterbacks can officially start throwing to receivers — but only inside a specific pod.
All other existing pod guidelines and protocols remain.
Each school or district will have to make its own determination on when to resume out-of-season workouts in the contact sports. And for now, athletes in every sport must wear masks.
Also, weight rooms can be used, but only up to 25 percent capacity.
“I think it’s good for our students to get involved again. I know our coaches have been waiting to get in-person workouts going, so they can see their student-athletes in person, rather than Zoom,” Larry Chavez, the district’s athletic director said. “In June, I thought it was a rush; now that school has started, student-athletes can get into a routine for a ‘normal’ school and working out.”
Despite being the A.D., after his days of being a student-athlete and coach, Chavez is a practical man: “To me, it’s still academics take preference. I want to see our kids take their Google classes, stay eligible. … This (the pandemic) is the hand that was dealt,” he said. “Complaining is not the answer, for both, academics and athletics.” “similar to us… he let the off-season start.”
Cleveland High football coach Heath Ridenour said the Storm won’t return to the field until Tuesday, given the logistics that must be worked out. “But it really helped us. I can put all 14 coaches to work with a pod of nine (athletes) and work out 126 kids in one evening. We’ll actually get to do some stuff. Now it becomes football again.”
“There’s a lot to be said for being able to throw a football and run some routes, work on timing, work on chemistry,” Ridenour said. “It’s a breath of fresh air. We’ve had nothing but bad news since March. I don’t think we’ll move backwards from this point.”
“We are extremely happy to be able to get to work with our athletes in person,” CHS wrestling coach Evan Copeland said. “Six or seven months without seeing them is way too long and we are grateful that the time has come that we can work out together again. It seems like things are improving all around the state and we hope that this is a sign of more good things to come.”
“We are extremely excited to get back to workouts,” said Storm boys basketball coach Sean Jimenez. “Our boys needed their coaches and we needed them. It was nice to be around them and have some sense of normalcy. We are adhering to the protocols to make sure our players and coaches are staying safe.”
“Girls soccer is very excited to be back on the field,” RRHS girls soccer coach Uwe Balzis said. “Although practices are very restricted, we will make the most out of it. Our practices will focus on individual ball work and fitness.”
RRHS boys soccer coach John Shepard said, “While none of this COVID stuff is even close to ideal, I think it’s good for the mental and physical health of our young people to be able to get back out there and play the sport they love. For the outdoor sports, it seems that the risk is minimal, but I believe the benefits to be multiple. The players get to interact, from a distance, with other young people and with their coaches; they get some exercise and fresh air; and they get a tiny bit of normalcy and stability and continuity.
“We have to play the cards we are dealt, so this restricted practice is the best we have right now. I’ll take it — it’s better than nothing.”
Fore! Storm golf tournament is set
The 2020 CHS football team’s annual golf tournament will be held Sunday, Oct. 18th at Paradise Hills Golf Course.
The cost is $125 per man or $500 per team. Teams will be assigned a tee time rather than having a shotgun start so it will be in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
“We also have sponsorship options,” Ridenour said. “We would love to fill this tournament up as we have done in the past. If you would like to play, help or donate, call Gabe Ortega (363-2007).
“If you are not a golfer, but would like to help, you can sponsor the tournament or simply forward this information along to your family and friends and spread it on social media. We are always looking for awesome prizes to give away as well, so if you have something to donate as a gift, we would love to hear your thoughts.”