Woodland Hills leads WPIAL football back to practice with workouts ‘normal as any other’

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020 | 9:46 AM


Woodland Hills football coach Tim Bostard checked every player’s temperature and nobody was allowed to shake hands.

Otherwise, this was just another Monday in June.

“Once the kids got there, it felt as normal as any other day that we would have during the summer,” said Bostard, whose football team was one of the first — and likely the first — in the WPIAL to resume workouts under covid-19 guidelines.

Five days after Gov. Tom Wolf gave PIAA teams permission to resume voluntary offseason workouts, the Wolverines were lifting weights at the high school and sweating out conditioning drills on the ball fields outside in groups of 25 or fewer.

“Kids came in and were chomping at the bit to get after it,” Bostard said. “I think the coaches were chomping at the bit just as much as the kids.”

Woodland Hills was first on the field because Bostard and athletic director Ron Coursey took a proactive approach in recent weeks.

Wolf required every school district to create a school-board approved health and safety plan that fits with covid-19 guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state department of health. Weeks before the governor issued that mandate, Coursey was already studying.

“Being a former history major for my undergrad degree, I can’t do anything else, but one thing I can do is research,” Coursey said, laughing. “I searched every site that was made available and the recommended dos and don’ts. I tried to put together a comprehensive plan that works best for our kids and our coaches.”

Bostard contributed football-specific ideas.

Their plan was submitted last week to the school’s administration and the school board for review over the weekend.

Some outsiders may ask: Why the rush? It’s just sports. Many schools won’t start workouts until next week or the week after.

“I can understand people saying it’s only sports, because at the end of the day the kids are playing games,” Coursey said. “But people don’t realize sports can be transcendent. Some of our kids are banking on athletic scholarships to transcend them to the next level.

“When you take away the opportunity to perfect your ‘craft,’ a lot of our kids are very antsy to get bigger, stronger, faster. I felt it was my duty as the athletic director to try to make sure we expedite the process by any means possible.”

Phase 1 of the Woodland Hills football plan includes groups no larger than 25. The individuals in those groups — both players and coaches — will continue to work out together exclusively to minimize possible covid-19 exposure.

Temperatures checks are conducted before workouts.

No spectators are allowed.

Workout sessions include one hour of weight training and one hour of conditioning work with a short break in between for equipment sanitation.

Individuals must bring their own water bottles.

Shirt with sleeves are required. Tank tops are banned. Masks must be worn during breaks and when entering and exiting the facility.

“The hardest part was trying to get the kids not to shake each other’s hands as soon as they walked in,” Bostard said. “You know, they haven’t seen each other because of all this. One of the first things they want to do is shake all of their friends’ hands. I’m like: ‘Hand sanitizer is right there, right there, right there.’”

Wearing a mask is another adjustment. To make it easier, Woodland Hills ordered custom buffs with the Wolverines helmet and “WH” logo on them. This type of mask can be worn around the neck and pulled over the face when needed.

“It was brought to my attention that those are what the Pirates and Steelers were going to use whenever they came back,” Bostard said.

“Going forward, I don’t know if they’re going to have to wear something like that under their helmets or not,” he added. “If we do need them, we’ve already got them.”

The Wolverines scheduled workouts Monday to Thursday for now. There were around 50 athletes on the first day of sessions. The coaches won’t incorporate footballs or any other equipment until Phase 2, which doesn’t start for another two weeks.

“Once you get the footballs out, then you’ve got to worry about disinfecting the football before everybody touches it,” Bostard said. “Right now, my biggest focus was getting them back in the weight room and getting them in shape since we missed about 10 weeks.”

At this time of year, PIAA rules allow only voluntary, non-contact workouts. Traditional practices are still two months away. The weeklong heat-acclimatization period starts Aug. 10, and the first official football practice is Aug. 17.

The Wolverines are pushing ahead but with caution.

“I still think we need to be on high alert and take all necessary precautions,” Coursey said, “because the last thing I want to do is see a young man or young woman contract this disease and have complications from it.”

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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