By RUSSELL HUFFMAN

sports@mineralwellsindex.com

As summer strength and conditioning workouts start Monday, Weatherford Coach Billy Mathis wants parents to know athletes need to plan on bringing at least a gallon of water with them each day.

The University Interscholastic League has placed restrictions on coaches and the athletic staff at all schools regarding water, locker rooms and showers or anywhere the UIL believes may spark a potential outbreak.

"With the way the state had started to reopen, I hope that the UIL will start to loosen up some of the restrictions they have in place," Mathis said. "At the same time, we have guidelines and restrictions in place to make sure we are keeping our athletes safe. One of the biggest changes is our athletes must bring their own water and not a little squeeze bottle. We are going to be doing strength and conditioning plus sports specific drills and our athletes will need lots of water."

Mathis has taken on a more personal role in overseeing the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines this week. Monday night, the Weatherford ISD school board unanimously tabbed Mathis to become the new athletic director, while also leading the Kangaroo football program.

As the hours start ticking down over this weekend, Mathis also expects to begin getting that "two-a-day" itch coaches and players get the night before football gets underway.

"We are going to take it slow at first because you have to realize these kids have been away from their regular workout routines," Mathis said. "Some of them will be a little behind, and things won't be as grueling right away, but we have a plan in place for getting everyone up to speed pretty quick."

It's the second year the UIL has allowed sports-specific drills during the offseason, which has also helped speed up an athlete's progress.

"It's helped us from the varsity and throughout our football program," Mathis said. "It's been especially helpful for incoming seventh graders because it gives them a head start on terminology and drills."

Mathis also noted the Optimist and Weatherford Youth Association football leagues "are great" in instilling the terminology the Kangaroos are using at the varsity level.

"We are all just itching to get back into this and get back to coaching kids, loving on them and getting people acclimated," Mathis said. "I'm expecting to see a 100-percent level of excitement and energy. That's something we haven't seen at the start of summer work in the past."

Mathis is looking forward to getting a new assistant athletic director in place with his need to focus his attention on the upcoming football season and keeping the Kangaroos' playoff streak going.

That person will also fulfill the role of strength and conditioning coach, and the Weatherford ISD is currently advertising the position. Mathis might be ready to get someone on board, but that person will need to be a fit for Kangaroo's program.

"We are currently going through the applications we have received so far, and we are looking for the best person we can find," Mathis said. "That person is going to need to approach this job with excitement, and they will be here to strengthen what my staff and I have in place."

Parents will need to make sure their athletes are loaded up with at least a gallon of water and Mathis pointed grocery store 1-gallon water bottles as being a great solution and that the plastic jugs are reusable.

Parents are also asked to make sure their athletes do not share water bottles with others. It’s also a good idea to find out if parents or school staff is monitoring their child’s temperatures.

Sports specific training will not include any one-on-one or other drills that would require one player "closely covering" another athlete.

Taking part in summer strength and conditioning is not mandatory. Still, attendance will be kept for safety reasons to track student/coaches' contact in the case of a suspected COVID-19 case. 

Students may attend up to two hours per day of strength and conditioning and may attend up to 90 minutes per day of sports-specific skills with no more than 60 minutes per day in one sport. 

Sport-specific skills may include sports equipment, but not contact equipment. 

Additional guidelines include equipment being regularly disinfected during sessions, and equipment should not be shared between groups. Athletes and coaches will still be locked out of locker rooms and showers until the UIL gives another go-ahead.

The Brock ISD has produced a comprehensive and detailed Summer Strength and Conditioning Return to Campus Plan, which includes new guidelines barring "non-essential" personnel from hanging out and watching athletes.

Each athlete and coach will each day have to complete a COVID-19 screening health and safety document and have their temperature checked before being allowed entry into Brock's facilities.

Nobody seems to be more anxious than Brock about getting athletes into shape as the Eagles are slated to be hitting the weight room at 7 a.m. June 8, while most schools have listed an 8 a.m. start for workouts. 

In Mineral Wells, Coach Gerald Perry and his staff expect parents and guardians to check athletes' temperatures and monitor their children for any signs of COVID-19.

The Rams are moving down in Class 4-A to the small school division, but that doesn't erase the fact that Mineral Wells is going to be a very young football team for a second consecutive season. Mineral Wells went 0-9 last year, and the Rams development appears to be competitive this year.

Parents and fans can check various school websites to see when strength and conditioning are taking place. Mineral Wells has already announced plans for different summer camps starting at the end of June and throughout July.

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