The Georgia High School Association is allowing sports teams to begin conditioning Monday, but most metro Atlanta schools are waiting to give themselves more time to prepare.
A survey of 21 metro Atlanta school systems shows 45 high schools getting the green light Monday, but 88 holding off or waiting for their districts to make decisions.
Rockdale County’s three high schools — Salem, Heritage and Rockdale County — won’t start until July 6, putting them a month behind many others for the August start of fall sports.
“Mathematically, you can’t deny it puts you behind the eight ball when other programs are getting started before you,” Salem football coach Jarrett Laws said. “But while I’m frustrated, because I feel it’s important to get in front of our kids, especially at this time in our country, COVID still takes precedence. If I’m in front of kids, I want to make sure it’s as safe and as meaningful as possible.”
Most late starters will begin only a week behind, but Paulding County coach Van Spence said he’d prefer starting as soon as possible.
“We have a lot of kids who need coaches and a lot of coaches ready to pour into our kids, so it’s very frustrating with all the waiting,” Spence said. “June 15 can’t get here quick enough.”
The GHSA last month lifted its ban on sports activities and announced that teams could start voluntary conditioning June 8. The GHSA in March shut down sports over COVID-19 concerns.
Metro school districts waiting until June 15 to start conditioning are Atlanta Public Schools and the county systems of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fulton, Henry and Paulding counties.
Cobb made its decision Friday.
“We are optimistic, but we also need to be very careful as we allow athletes to train over the summer months,” Cobb Schools athletic director Don Baker said. “We can’t allow our zeal to return to normal to endanger anyone’s health and safety.”
Buford City Schools is beginning Tuesday. Cherokee County schools will begin Wednesday.
DeKalb Schools officials have indicated they’re aiming for June 15. Decatur City Schools has not announced a return date.
Local school systems starting Monday are Bartow, Cartersville (city), Coweta, Fayette, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall and Marietta (city).
In Gwinnett, Parkview football coach Eric Godfree said he will have workout groups starting at 7 a.m. Monday and finishing at 9 p.m. To reduce the risk of COVID-19, the GHSA is allowing only 20 people on campus at a time for workouts.
“’We have a bunch of protocols, but we are glad to start doing something,” Godfree said.
The number of schools delaying summer conditioning statewide hasn’t been counted, but the larger cities are proceeding cautiously.
Macon schools will start conditioning Monday, but Columbus and Savannah schools won’t start on time. Albany schools haven’t announced a date and don’t expect to begin Monday.
In a typical summer, any high school sports team is allowed to have regular practices, even scrimmages, as long as they are voluntary.
This year, at least initially, summer workouts are restricted to conditioning, which mostly entails strength and agility training, and they come with restrictions that address social-distancing, group size and sterilization.
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