By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent
With the 2019-2020 season cut short due to the coronavirus shutdown, Muleshoe High School athletes began strength and conditioning training in June.
The athletes will continue training in July as junior high athletes begin training.
“As of right now, everything is on track per the UIL calendar,” said MISD Athletic Director Jason Richards.
With four weeks of training behind them, Muleshoe athletes are in shape for beginning the football and other fall sports seasons in August.
Strength and Conditioning sessions have been well attended.
“We averaged 48 to 50 boys, and 35 to 40 girls grades nine through 12,” Richards said. “I was pleased with the turnout. We got a lot done.”
Junior high training began July 13. High school athletes begin training with a COVID-19 screening at 6:30 a.m., begin their workouts at 7 a.m. and finish at 9 a.m. Junior high athletes are screened at 8:45 a.m., start training at 9 a.m. and end at 10:30 a.m.
“My staff has done a great job,” Richards said. “Both high school and junior high coaches take part in the training.”
The COVID-19 era dictates certain changes in the usual routine.
“Our kids were very receptive,” Richards said. “It was kind of like going back to elementary school. All of the kids have a spot. You finish a drill or station, and you go to your spot. The kids did really good with it. The coaches were constantly monitoring and sanitizing. I’m proud of them.”
Richards doesn’t claim that it’s easy to social distance when you’re part of a team.
“It’s against human nature to stay away from each other,” he said. “You want to put your arm around somebody or high-five them. Stephen Seymore, our trainer that we just hired from Bovina, is doing a great job at staying on them, acting as a liaison for safe health practices.”
Two decisions made early in the process paved the way for a successful program. The first was to hold early practices.
“Yesterday the temperature was over 100, but the actual and real feel was about 105 to 107,” Richards said. “It’s been hot. We’ve been done by 9 a.m., so we haven’t faced challenges from the heat yet. At the beginning, we bought every kid a water bottle, and if they need more water, the trainer refills the bottle.”
Richards came to Muleshoe from Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi.
“I’ve coached on the Texas coast for the last six years, so I understand how to coordinate a workout in the heat,” he said.
Richards signed on as the Muleshoe football coach/athletic director in late January, so he had only a short time to work with the students before the March shutdown. He expected to focus on the newly renovated weight room working on sports skills with the athletes.
That time was cut short, but Richards and the staff, especially Sam Whalin, Director of Maintenance and Facilities, found a new way to do weight training during the summer.
“We set the weight room outside – it was the greatest decision we made,” Richards said. “Anything that was out there got killed if it was a germ.”
Located under the home stands, the outdoor weight room has hand sanitizing stations stocked with sanitizing equipment.
“There are about 10 to 12 different sections with supporting beams. We have a squat rack and benches. Everything’s perfect, about 12 feet spread apart,” Richards said.
Although school will be opening soon, Richards expects to keep the outdoor weight room for a little while.
“It’s safer to be outside,” he said.
On Monday, July 13, the MISD Board of Trustees and school administrators determined that school would open on Thursday, Aug. 12, as it normally does.
Richards said as far as he knew, there have been no changes to the UIL sports schedule, so football season will begin in August.
“NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) has moved their football season to the spring,” Richards said. “I don’t want that. I don’t think it’s good for spring athletics like track, baseball and softball.”
Junior high students are off to a late start with their conditioning, and Richards describes them as “chomping at the bit to get started.”
“We plan to acclimatize junior high athletes, show them how to safely and properly lift weights, and move slowly into conditioning,” he said. “The last thing we need is to give junior high school students a bad experience. They don’t start their season until three weeks in the school year, so they still have time to get in shape for upcoming season.
“The kids are ready to be back from what I’ve seen. Our attendance has been great, especially for starting at 6:30 in the morning. The vast majority of them think they’re ready to be back, and, frankly, I think the parents are ready for them to be back.”
The following message regarding physicals and athletic forms was in an email message from Richards:
“This year Muleshoe ISD physicals and UIL athletic forms will be transitioned to online this will make it easier for you as athletes and parents filling forms out, and for coaches to keep track of their athletes travel forms. Below is the link that will guide you step by step to set up your SportsWare Online profile. Once you request an account I will be able to approve you and then you can start signing your UIL forms. For the 2020-21 school year UIL has approved any athlete that had a valid physical for the 2019-20 school year to use that physical again, pending the review of a new medical history form incoming. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me.
When setting up your profile use your school email address please.