Shaler uses caution, sends football players home over covid-19 concerns

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | 9:04 PM


Choosing to take a cautious approach, Shaler coach Jim Ryan sent his football team home early from workouts Tuesday after learning a family friend of a player could have contracted covid-19.

The unidentified player wasn’t believed to have had any direct contact with the person, Ryan and athletic director Clint Rauscher said. But after discussions with Rauscher, team trainers and his assistant coaches, Ryan elected to send the team home until at least Thursday.

“Given the circumstances, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Ryan said. “My first priority is making sure the kids and their families are safe, and then my coaches, as well. We’ve got families we’ve got to worry about, too.

“Of course, the third priority was I didn’t want this to snowball into something big and then it really puts us back.”

It’s a crucial decision other WPIAL coaches will face in the coming weeks as more teams resume offseason workouts. Each school district was required to create a return-to-play plan for covid-19 before retaking the field this summer.

This was a good opportunity to put the school’s plan into action, Rauscher said. He anticipates this occurring more frequently once buildings reopen for next school year.

“If we get back in the school in the fall, we’re going to have kids in that situation,” Rauscher said. “We better figure out what process we’re going to use. It’s a little precursor for the fall.”

The Shaler football team restarted its workouts June 22. The team already had Wednesday as a scheduled day off, so coaches and administrators have time to plan their next step.

“Believe me, (canceling Tuesday’s workout) wasn’t an easy decision by any means,” Ryan said. “This is something that goes against everything that’s ingrained in us. But given the circumstances, you have to think rationally and prioritize what’s important first.”

Football coaches are traditionally seen as stubborn, not cautious.

“It’s the football mindset,” Ryan said. “We think: ‘Let’s just do it. Push through it.’ But there’s a bigger picture here and more important things.”

Rauscher said Shaler will consult with the team’s doctor. The player in question could be kept away from the team for 14 days, he said.

The situation arose when Ryan received a phone call Monday from a player’s mother, letting him know about a potential covid-19 case. The person in question was a relative of the player’s friend, Rauscher said.

Test results are pending, Ryan said.

“She needed advice on how she was to handle things,” Ryan said. “I went back and forth with Clint, our trainers, my coaching staff, and we just decided it was better to put everybody out of any kind of harm’s way, if that’s the case.

“I made sure the parents fully understood that as far as we knew there was no direct contact,” Ryan added, “and we’re just waiting to hear results from the twice-removed person so we can move on.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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