Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Wearing a mask, and other athletic tasks


Now that graduation has been completed for the 2019-20 school year at Xavier Prep, the attention is turning toward 2020-21, and all that will go with it.

A significant piece of the puzzle will be the school’s outstanding athletics program.

Officials from the school and the Diocese of Phoenix, along with guidelines for return to activity from the Arizona Interscholastic Association, will figure prominently in what happens next as the COVID-19 virus continues to affect all walks of life.

And exactly what will happen? We just don’t know, to be honest. Many ideas continue to be tossed around among the XCP sports hierarchy, athletic trainers and medical personnel, coaches and various other staff members.

A meeting for fall sports coaches and others on Wednesday (June 17) followed approval of guidelines by the Diocese that closely mirrored those from the AIA.

Fall sports coaches are awaiting approval from the Diocese to have open gyms and fields (dates TBA), with that leading to fall tryouts in early August as preseason practices officially begin in preparation for the regular season that likely would start in late August/early September.

The fall sports ledger lists badminton, cross country, freshman tennis, golf, swim/dive, the club sport of mountain biking and spirit line activities. Crew (rowing) and the Hotshots shooting and archery groups also participate in club competition.

Each coach must submit a proposal plan that lists the best way(s) for their sport to succeed in both daily practices and games. Some paperwork filled out by the athletes and/or their parents also likely will figure into the mix.

“This uptick (in virus numbers across the state), has us, particularly indoor sports (volleyball and badminton) watching and waiting,’’ said Xavier Athletic Director and co-head golf coach Sr. Lynn Winsor.

“As an athletic office, we are taking a conservative path into starting open gym/open field.’’

“We are waiting for that green light,’’ said Lamar-Renee Bryant, whose volleyball program is one of the best in the state on a yearly basis.

Bryant also coaches a summer club team in the southeast Valley that had a practice on Monday (June 22) in Tempe. The coach said her players were in small groups for the most part and all wore masks.

That is expected to be a way of life for volleyball, at least in the immediate future as masks and distancing as much as possible are key elements. Badminton and volleyball are the only fall sports that practice and/or face other schools during the regular season in the Activity Center or at next-door Vestar Hall.

That leaves cross country, freshman tennis, golf and swim/dive as the outdoor sports, which already have some distancing built into their competition.

The cross-country runners might be the first to go out. Coach Dave Van Sickle has held informal workouts early on summer mornings in the past and his runners are ready. During competition, the runners mostly start in a large group, but things stretch out over the course that usually is around 3 miles.

Divers can work in safe intervals and the swimmers compete in one lane per swimmer (including relays, where no two athletes are in a lane at the same time). Swimming coaches are consulting with their colleagues at neighboring Brophy Prep, with its pool serving as the home location for both schools.

Long-time Xavier teacher, coach and administrator Susan Contreras participated in last week’s meeting and said that XCP head athletic trainer Laurie White and school nurse Cara Gillem are playing big roles in the process.

“They explained just about everything and it was very informative,’’ Contreras said. “They let us what we need to know in this situation.’’

Wading through the fact-gathering process can be a daunting task.

“Overwhelming,’’ Contreras said. “There’s so much information out there and a lot of it seems to change daily.’’

The AIA guidelines were put together by the Sport Medical Advisory Committee.

According to the AIA, “The challenge is to reintroduce physical activity in a manner that follows federal, state and county public health guidelines to reduce the spread of illness amongst athletes, coaches, athletic training staff and community.’’

The process will involve three phases. When one has been completed, there is a move to the next phase and then the final phase.

The trick is to get all school districts on the same page as much as possible, in order that the athletes, coaches, staff and spectators can be protected. This includes a cleaning and disinfecting protocol, between practices and the games between the lower-level teams and the varsity. That should keep the maintenance staff and others busy.

“We want to be able to protect everyone, both home and away,’’ White said.

The AIA has 12 pages of guidelines. For an in-depth look, go to azpreps365.com and click on the blue ribbon across the top of the home page.

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