Light at the end of the tunnel

Foster head football coach Shaun McDowell talking to his team during fall practice.

The University Interscholastic League Director of Athletics Dr. Susan Elza opened the door Tuesday for a return to high school athletics with a letter sent out to athletic directors and coaches across Texas.

The letter addressed limited summer strength and conditioning workouts.

“The UIL is aware of Governor (Greg) Abbott’s announcement yesterday,” Elza said in her note. “We are currently, and have been, working with the appropriate state officials to allow schools to begin limited strength and conditioning on June 8.

“As soon as we have the details of that plan, we will release them to schools to allow time to plan and prepare for bringing students back to campus for these purposes,” Elza stated.

Many campuses have been closed across the state since spring break, during which time coaches and athletes have been unable to access school facilities.

The UIL had held out hope for completing spring sports for much of March and April before Abbott announced the closure of in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.

Abbott’s Phase II announcement on Monday enabled youth sports and camps to reopen on May 31.

The UIL followed up Ezra’s letter by reiterating her comments and noting the plan is not finalized.

Coaches are starting the process of preparing for a return despite the initial lack of details.

“The big thing coming out will be how we continue to provide for the safety and the health of our kids,” said Foster head coach football coach and Greater Houston Football Coaches Association president Shaun McDowell.

“We will have to stay within the CDC, NCAA, NFHS and UIL guidelines.

“I don’t know what that looks like yet. Do we have to wear masks?

“It is going to be really hard to be six feet apart. Is it going to be all outside? Can we use the weight room at all?

“It is kind of overwhelming because I’m a planner. I like to plan things out and if you don’t know what it is going to look like it is going to be frustrating.

“I’m rolling with the punches.”

McDowell said the uncertainty doesn’t change the fact that the coaches are looking forward to getting back to work on campus.

“I’m excited about it,” said McDowell. “We’re talking about it and we’re getting a chance to be around our kids again.

“We get a chance to return to some sense of normalcy or at least attack what is the new normal.

“I’m excited. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train.”

Currently, the UIL oversees three sports competing in the fall: football, volleyball and cross country.

Football and volleyball are currently scheduled to start on Aug. 3 with the first day of conditioning for the 2020-21 school year.

The UIL return date is also the same day the Louisiana High School Athletic Association will allow the start of summer football conditioning. 

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