Athletic department prepares for fall sporting events


photo by Sarah Hinnant

Linebacker Wyatt Wilson and ___ Alex Gorczany working on tackling drills at their Aug. 31 practice. Their first game is Sept. 17 at Timber Creek.

Will athletes have to play in masks? Will fans be allowed? Is there even going to be a fall season? Sports programs have elicited questions than answers recently, but on Aug. 24,  tryouts were able to be held. With schools needing approval from the county and the Florida High School Athletic Association to proceed with their fall sports seasons, some have experienced delays. 

Most coaches already have a game plan set for their athletes, which follows the CDC and FHSSA guidelines. 

Slowpitch softball tryouts were held on Sept. 1, and head coach David Stone is taking precautions such as running staggered start times based upon graduation classes. 

“If we want to play, comfort is a moot point,” Stone said.

 As long as they are able to play, he will do anything in his power to make sure that his players and coaching staff are safe. 

For sports where close contact is inevitable like wrestling, there are greater concerns in staying clean and sanitized.

“As far as staying sanitized, I feel that we are the sport that is most prepared for this. We battle against this every year trying to avoid skin infections, the flu and many other things. It’s just the nature of our sport, so we are hyper-vigilant in cleaning,” head wrestling coach Scotty Diaz said.

 Diaz also said that this hygiene is nothing new and that he and his team have always taken steps like cleaning the mats before and after practice.

Timber Creek and Hagerty High School have already experienced COVID-19 cases within their athletic programs. Timber Creek has had a few cases within their football program over the summer and Hagerty has had three positive cases since school has started. It is mandatory for all athletes to quarantine for two weeks, along with anyone else that comes into contact with them. However, coaches maintain their position on participation; as long as athletes and parents are comfortable with competing, they will not opt out of any games during the season. 

 Despite concerns, coaches do not plan on shortening their seasons, but understand that this is a possibility and would prefer a season rather than no season at all. 

“I would support whatever decision they [student athletes] and their parents make,” Stone said

Principal Robert Frasca and athletic director Jay Getty, along with other coaches, have been working together this past month to get schedules ready for the regular seasons and figuring out how to manage spectators for home events.

Based on previous ticket sales, the staff determined that home games will be kept at around 35% capacity at football games and volleyball games, which is about 1,000 tickets in the stadium and 400 tickets in the gym.

“The only thing we are concerned about right now, in terms of having to limit ticket sales, is our varsity football games,” Frasca said. “Our gates tend to build it bigger than what 35% is. We also have to consider our dance team, cheer team and band as well.”

The football team’s first home game is on Oct. 16; it will be mandatory for spectators to wear masks and maintain social distance. 

“We need families to stay together,” Frasca said. “There will not be any vendors selling t-shirts and such at games this year.”

The same rules apply to the gym for the volleyball game tonight against Seminole. Getty has prepared stickers to place in the gym to social distance a student section for students that want to go to the games, along with the rest of the spectators to maintain social distancing. 

As for the team, head coach Juanita Hitt has prepared the team for their home opener while also making sure the health and safety of the players is maintained.

“We take more breaks to get water when there is continuous play and then right when we are done we put our masks on,” Hitt said.

To attend the game tonight, the athletic department is implementing the app GoFan, which can be downloaded to your phone. From there you can select your school, which event you are attending, and purchase however many tickets necessary. There will be posters at the gym with a QR Code to purchase tickets if you have not done so already. 

If you are attending the game tonight, please visit this link to see the safety measures the athletic department has put in place for your safety and the players’ safety.