TSD high school sports on hold until July

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

While the school year just (officially) ended last week, the prospects for what will happen in the fall have a lot of Berthoud students and parents concerned. The concern is particularly strong for high school athletes and their families as the prospect of not having fall sports is unfathomable to many.

On Monday, June 1, the strict guidelines prohibiting any formalized or group activities – including in-person practices, camps, conditioning sessions and the like – were lifted statewide by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).

The CHSAA ban was put in place in mid-March with an expiration set for June 1 with the stipulation that each district would then decide how to proceed given the circumstances unique to their communities.

The Thompson School District, which predominantly incorporates Berthoud and Loveland, is adhering to their original plan, which was also established in March, on team activities and player-coach contract through the end of June. This is in line with most other districts in the state; some districts, including Jefferson County, have bans in place until August.

According to Kevin Clark, Athletic Director for the Thompson School District (TSD), the district is currently working on putting together a plan that will be submitted to the Larimer County Health Department for approval. Clark explained he is working with the athletic directors from each of the district’s four high schools as well as representatives from the medical, facilities and risk-management staff to assemble the plan, which Clark said they will submit to the County this week.

“We want to have policy that assures equity throughout our four schools,” Clark explained Tuesday. “We need have consistency across our district.”

Clark is also serving on the CHSAA re-socialization task force that will help set guidelines state-wide. He said he “definitely optimistic” that group practices and other offseason activities with players and coaches present can begin in July in the four TSD high schools.

“I know that Superintendent (Marc) Schaffer, District Athletic Director Clark, and Berthoud Athletic Director (Michael) DeWall are working very hard to provide our student-athletes and coaches with the tools needed to conduct safe activities,” said Berthoud High football coach Cory Ticnor. “It is vital that we research and conduct best-practices as a district, for our students and community members.” 

Should the plan be approved by the County and group activities begin in July, Clark explained social-distancing measures will be in place and strict sanitization policies will be enforced to ensure the health and safety of participants.

Clark said that protocols for each sport will likely be slightly different, given the different nature of each. It is easier to maintain distancing for a golf team, for example, than for a football or volleyball team. Yet Clk said that during the first couple phases of reopening, no physical contact will be permitted between players, e.g., football teams will not be able to engage in blocking or tackling drills.

DeWall, who spoke with the Surveyor Monday, also expressed optimism that the plan currently being assembled will be met with approval and activities can resume in July. DeWall further said that missing the month of June will not be detrimental to the prospects for the team’s come fall sports, saying, “This June there is not going to be a critical mass that’s going to put us way behind. I don’t think we will have any problem; we’re going to be fine. I don’t feel like we’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Another concern for schools across the county is the potential for significant revenue losses should sports not be able to resume in the fall or resume but be absent of spectators. DeWall explained that, at Berthoud High, the school’s athletic budget just about broke even this spring absent sports but the main concern in the fall would be if football, which is a massive revenue generator, had to play in empty stadiums.

Berthoud is currently scheduled to have four home football games this fall and DeWall said, “if those don’t happen that will have a significant impact on my budget.”  

“Football has always been a way to generate the revenue, if football doesn’t happen with fans, we’re going to have to get very creative with ways to generate revenue so we don’t hurt our programs,” Clark explained.

“The safety of our community is what is most important. It has been a unique challenge to continue to work toward the fall season with our Spartan football players these past months. We have conducted virtual meetings and I have sent individual workouts to players as well as provide some opportunities for older players to lead small group workouts. I look forward to the time in which we get to resume normal operating procedures. There is nothing I want more than to be on the field with our kids, but we have to make sure we do this right,” Ticnor said.

The Surveyor will update this story as events continue to progress.

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