UIL releases guidelines for limited return of high school, junior high athletics

The University Interscholastic League released guidelines Friday afternoon for the return of summer strength and conditioning programs and sport specific practices, which will allow student-athletes across Texas to get back to limited action beginning June 8.

The UIL initially canceled all spring sports and activities due to the novel coronavirus pandemic on April 17 after Gov. Greg Abbott announced schools to remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the year.

Now, the UIL has taken the first step towards bringing high school and junior high athletics back, although in limited fashion.

“We are cautiously optimistic about beginning summer strength and conditioning programs and marching band practices that safely allow students to get back to working with their coaches and directors in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “While we are eager to resume UIL activities, we must do so carefully, deliberately and with an understanding that major adjustments are needed to ensure safety. The requirements outline an approach designed to help schools mitigate risk while ensuring students are physically prepared to return to activities in the Fall, should state and federal guidelines allow.”

A Friday news release from the UIL states “schools may use discretion when considering whether or not to offer in-person programs, and areas of the state facing COVID-19 related challenges should consult with local health officials to determine what additional restrictions, if any, should be added to these guidelines. Schools deciding to move forward with offering in-person activities are encouraged to do so carefully and with vigilance, ensuring safety requirements outlined in this approach are closely adhered to in order to mitigate risk.”

Some highlights of the UIL guidelines include:

  • Attendance at workouts must be optional for students and in compliance with the rules for Summer Strength & Conditioning and Sport Specific Skill Instruction.
  • During workouts, schools must have at least one staff member per twenty students in attendance to ensure appropriate social distancing, hygiene, and safety measures are applied.
  • Schools must have hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations readily available in the workout area. Students and staff should be encouraged to use it frequently.
  • All surfaces in workout areas must be thoroughly disinfected throughout and at the end of each day.
  • No clothing or towels may be laundered on site or shared during workouts.
  • There can be no shared water or food.
  • Before the start of summer workouts, and at the start of every week of summer workouts, schools should consider pre-screening all students for COVID symptoms that they or others living in their house may experience. This can be completed by phone prior to the first day of workouts, in person or in writing. Students and staff must self-screen every day for COVID-19 symptoms for themselves and family members. Schools should consider taking the temperature of each student each day at the start of the conditioning sessions, if possible.
  • Sessions for both strength and conditioning and sport specific skill instruction may be conducted by school coaches for students in grades 7-12 from that coaches attendance zone.
  • A strength and conditioning session shall be no more than two consecutive hours per day, Monday through Friday, and a student shall attend no more than one session per day.
  • Sport specific skill instruction may be conducted in addition to the strength and conditioning session(s),  and a student shall attend no more than 90 minutes per day of sport specific skill instruction with no more than 60 minutes per day in a given sport, Monday through Friday.
  • No competitive drills involving one or more students on offensive against one or more students on defensive may be conducted.
  • If a positive case is identified among a participant in these summer activities, either staff or student, the group to which that staff or student was assigned and in contact with must be removed from the sessions while all members of the group self-isolate. If the confirmed individual regularly had close contact outside a single group, then all of the students and staff with whom the confirmed individual had close contact shall be removed from workouts for two weeks.
  • The UIL’s complete Summer Strength and Conditioning and Marching Band Practice Guidelines can be found by visiting this link.