Woodruff Athletes Return to Campus for Socially Distanced Workouts
By: Garrett Mitchell, Staff Writer
The Wolverines are back.
With stay-at-home orders rescinded and restrictions now eased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to sports-related activities are ushering in a small sense of normalcy in a year that has been anything but for everyone around the country.
That return includes Woodruff High School athletes.
Following a phase-in plan to workouts and activities mandated by the South Carolina High School League, heeding the advice of state and national medical professionals, Woodruff athletes are back on the field in a socially-distanced phase one format to resume high school athletics.
While coaches and athletes alike are excited to be back on the field, Woodruff athletic director Michael Morris explained some of the challenges in getting the ball rolling again.
“I think the most challenging aspect so far is getting enough coaches to work this summer,” he said. “We can only work with nine athletes in a group so we have to have a lot of coaches commit to coming to workouts.”
Even with a return to sports, activities remain highly restricted with all workouts being voluntary on the part of players. Face coverings must be worn by coaches and athletes at all times and bring their own personal water bottles from home. Any athlete who presents a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be permitted on campus and will have their temperature checked by athletic trainers upon arrival on campus.
Additionally, no locker rooms on school grounds will be open for use.
Morris also explained, “We are currently in phase one and we do not know how long we will be in phase one. Right now, we can condition in small groups. Eventually we will be able to use balls but they cannot be shared. For example, a quarterback would have to throw at a target or into a net because he is the only one that can touch the ball he is using.”
Still, players are excited to return to a familiar setting with the goal of preparing once again for live competition following the loss of virtually the entire spring sports season in 2020.
“It felt so good to be back with the team,” said Woodruff football running back Shamare Dendy. “Life wasn’t right without being around my teammates and having fun by pushing each other. Everybody is so happy to be back and you can tell by the intensity that we bring at practice.”
While questions certainly remain about the viability of a full fall sports season being played, Morris is optimistic and urges that following guidelines in the summer is the best way to ensure that fall sports athletes do not suffer the same fate as spring athletes who endured the loss of their entire season during the recently completed school year due to the pandemic.
“The overall goal is to abide by the phase one guidelines so we can move to phase two and get back to what we consider a normal summer workout,” Morris said. “Hopefully by the end of July the COVID cases will be on the decline and we can have some form of a fall sports season.”
Dendy added that when the Wolverines do take the field at W.L. Varner Stadium, he and his teammates will be ready to help start the healing process for Woodruff High School student athletes.
“You should always be ready no matter what the situation is and always give your all,” he said. “If there isn’t a season that still isn’t going to stop the team from working and grinding, and the Woodruff program from accomplishing our goals in life.”