Published Nov. 3, 2020
By RILEY PALSHAW
With the prospect of traditionally fall sports starting Dec. 14 throughout California high schools, Carmel High has developed an athletic conditioning program, initiated Monday, in hopes of providing some sort of structure for athletes and a chance for them to be among their friends as the potential season draws nearer.
Since August, CHS athletic director Golden Anderson, principal Jon Lyons, athletic trainer Matt Borek and track coach Nick Cunningham have been constructing a safe and effective plan for athletes. With more than 250 signups, they will be able to coach a large majority of the school’s student-athletes.
“It’s a need, it’s an outlet,” Anderson says. “People want to see their friends, people want to exercise.”
Athletes are coming to the high school to workout on either Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays at their designated slot time, with the same group of 10 kids in their grade, unless siblings request to be in the same group as one another.
The voluntary program is designed to get all kinds of athletes back in shape, providing two workout options: field or aquatic workouts. Field workouts consist of two 30-minute sessions, one taking place on the football field and focusing on dynamics, the other situated behind the endzones and focusing on calisthenic exercises. Aquatic workouts take place in the pool, where lanes are open for laps, the deep end open for treading and other related exercises, and the pool deck open for dry-land workouts.
“The primary goal of the workouts are to deliver something for everyone,” says three-time Olympian Cunningham, who designed the workouts. “Whether you are a new freshman who has never played an organized sport or the varsity football quarterback, all student-athletes will benefit in many ways.”
While a core focus of the program is to help athletes rebuild their endurance, an even greater emphasis has been placed on safety, as coordinators make sure to follow CDC and Monterey County health guidelines.
“We’re [following] the guidelines, but we’re adding extra layers because we want this to be successful,” Borek adds.
When arriving on a day of conditioning, teens step out of their car, wearing a mask, and get into a line for the check-in process, placing themselves six feet away from other students. Then they pull up a QR code on their phone that allows them to sign in easily. Before accessing either the football field or the pool deck, they are required to fill out a questionnaire and undertake a health screening.
Field workout athletes file down to the football field, where they spread themselves out on the sideline five yards apart from each other. At this point, athletes can decide for themselves if they want to keep their masks on, but all coaches are wearing theirs. After the running portion of the workout, they continue to practice social distancing as they remain at the very least six feet apart during the workout. With staggered start times for each group, students avoid contact with other students, and the football field never holds more than 40 athletes.
“I’m so excited to be able to have some form of a team/group activity,” says junior three-sport athlete Hannah Filly. “It will be so nice to be on campus and get active with old teammates and friends who I haven’t worked with in a while.”
As for aquatic athletes, they only ever come in contact with one another when passing each other in lanes, but with only 20 people allowed in the pool area at a time, even that is unlikely. These regulations are set in place for the safety of the students, the coaches and the community overall.
“Students will be removed from the program if they are intentionally not following the rules,” Anderson adds.
That will probably not be an issue as many students are just excited about the chance to see their friends through this program and do not want to jeopardize this opportunity.
“It was fun to actually be on campus and see people I haven’t seen in a while,” freshman Fiona Hirschfield said after her first day of participation.
For seniors, this might be the last chance they get to do something sports-related at the high school.
“Thinking about the possibility of not having a senior season is really sad,” senior Elan Hornik says. “I’ve waited four years to be the senior on the team and have a good year with my friends, so I hope we get it.”
On the other end of the high school hierarchy, freshmen are getting a cold introduction to high school sports, so this program might be all they have to hold on to.
“It is sad that freshman year starts without sports, as I was looking forward to them,” says Hirschfield. “It is even more saddening that I might not get to play sports at all this year, but that’s why it is so cool that the school is offering the athletic conditioning program.”
Carmel’s conditioning program is one step closer to the sense of normalcy a lot of teen athletes and coaches have been lacking as they approach eight months without sports.
As the athletic director notes, “Hopefully this is an outlet and a way to let some steam off and give kids something to look forward to every day.”