Amid constant reminders of the coronavirus pandemic, athletic activity has begun to return to Marlboro County High School.
The Bulldog football team began summer activities this week, with morning conditioning and training on fundamentals.
"This is just very different," said head coach Bobby Collins, who then pauses to remind a group of players to remain six feet apart.
"We are working in small groups of about eight players each. They have one coach working with that group and he has to keep on a mask. We aren't using any equipment or balls, anything that they can touch," said Collins.
The groups are on different practice fields and some of the linemen are even working on the lawn behind the school. The Bulldog coaches are following guidelines established by the High School League for the resumption of in-person workouts and training.
That includes having all athletes and coaches screened daily for any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, including temperature checks. No more than 10 athletes can work in a group, they can't use the locker room facilities and masks are to be worn at all times except during drills.
He said that the coaches will also use the online meeting software Zoom to give further instruction to the team.
So far, the coaches are just working with players who will be in the tenth through twelfth grades. About 40 potential players have been showing up, so far. Freshmen won't be included until later in the summer.
"That freshman class has some promising athletes and a bunch played at the middle school level last fall, so we are excited about them. But we just need to get the varsity guys started back working now," said Collins, who will be entering his second season with the team.
"Right now we aren't working them very hard. We are just trying to ease back into it, get them in shape a bit and teach some basic stuff. We are trying to make it as fun as possible," said Collins.
Despite the spikes in coronavirus cases in South Carolina, the coach remains optimistic about getting to play the 2020 season.
"The High School League is coming up with a number of contingency plans. They want the kids across the state to get a chance to play and the league counts on football financially. If there is a way to safely have a season, they are going to work towards that," Collins concluded.