High school athletic departments across Georgia have been forced to make adjustments on a weekly basis since the GHSA allowed teams to begin holding non-mandatory workouts earlier this month.
The constant changes week to week have been tedious. However, the latest update to the governing body's protocols will be welcomed by nearly all coaches across the board.
On Wednesday, the GHSA announced two major restrictions were being relaxed. Firstly, workout sessions can consist of up to 50 individuals (players and coaches) and two pre-existing groups can be combined. Secondly, the ban on sport-specific equipment at workouts will be lifted.
Both measures go into effect Monday. All other rules and recommendations remain the same, including those emphasizing social-distance measures such as not allowing scrimmages to take place.
When the GHSA released its initial return-to-play guidance in late May, workout groups were limited to 20. All football teams and several other fall sports programs in Bartow County started back June 8 with that restriction in place.
This past week, groups were allowed to have upwards of 25 attendees. The caveat was that it only applied to new participants, meaning only teams or individuals not present the previous week could push the numbers to 25.
Now, all teams are essentially back to an equal playing field.
Whether or not programs already had started working out on campus, all groups can total up to 50 members, beginning Monday. The update expressly mentions existing sessions can be combined into one, but the rule remains that, once established, neither players nor coaches can switch between the new groups.
While the increase in group size is a huge boost for football, in particular, the GHSA's decision to allow for use of sport-specific equipment is a key development for all programs, aside from, say, cross country. For fall sports, teams can utilize balls along with things like softball bats, volleyball nets and cheerleading mats.
As with the weightlifting equipment, any sport-specific things athletes use should be sanitized between sessions, per the updated guidelines.
These new regulations will apply to the final workouts allowed in June, as the annual dead week runs June 28-July 4. By the time athletes return to campus in July, an even more relaxed set of protocols could welcome them back.