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Workouts shape up for New Hampshire high school athletes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2020 9:32:58 PM
Modified: 6/25/2020 9:32:52 PM

WEST LEBANON — To get into game shape, high school athletes first need to work out. With that thought in mind, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has released guidelines for its member schools to set up summer training programs in hopes that a plan for fall sports may follow.

The NHIAA sent its Reopening Sports/Activities Summer Guidance document to schools on Wednesday. While it follows the restart framework suggested by the National Federation of State High School Administrations (NFHS) last month, it hews more directly to the state of New Hampshire’s strictures for reviving youth and amateur sports as well as its directives toward reopening health and fitness centers, NHIAA Executive Director Jeffrey Collins said on Thursday morning.

The NHIAA doesn’t permit school-sponsored games in the summer, but “we have long since allowed for workouts for kids geared toward” school sports, Collins noted. “This is something that’s been in the works for about three weeks. Certainly, schools ... can do workouts, lifting, running; they can do different things. Schools are looking for guidance with regard to that.”

The NFHS document released on May 19 focuses on reducing the potential for coronavirus transmission through such means as health assessments, social distancing, cleaning protocols and the dividing of sports by risk. As for the latter item, the NHIAA differed from the NFHS by upgrading basketball to high-risk and downgrading tennis to low-risk to reflect the state’s June 15 stay-at-home update as well as the deliberations of its sports medicine committee, Collins said.

The NHIAA document notes “it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of students to return to physical activity and athletic competition safely,” while also stating the uncertainty of “how or when N.H. schools will open in the fall.” Among its points of emphasis, the document assumes that athletes have “deconditioned” during stay-at-home orders and have probably done so for several months.

In a normal summer, Lebanon High football coach Chris Childs would be putting his players through a daily weightlifting regimen along with once-a-week seven-on-seven drills across the Connecticut River at Hartford High. None of that has been possible since schools in New Hampshire and Vermont shuttered in mid-March.

“(We’re) working on it right now,” Childs said. “It may be possible in the next couple of weeks to be able to go outside and do stuff with the kids, where we’re keeping social distancing around them and getting them running around and moving a bit.

“I know Exeter High has already started it, and Laconia’s started. What they do is set up some stations and move the kids through stations, which is similar to what we’re going to try to do.”

The NHIAA’s plan offers a two-phase start to summer workouts. Phase One limits sessions to outdoors only. Phase Two opens gradual use of indoor spaces, provided schools follow state guidelines similar to those recently issued for fitness facilities. The latter phase would allow for larger group training sessions as well.

In an email, Hanover High athletic director Megan Sobel said her programs haven’t started offseason training, but she appreciated the NHIAA’s direction.

“I think having guidance from the state is helpful and will be useful to schools as we navigate the challenges of summer training and a return to sports,” Sobel wrote. “Our student-athletes, coaches and community are asking for guidance so they can get back to sports in some form. Adaptability and flexibility are key, as things are continually changing and we must be ready as we continue to learn more.”

Childs usually runs offseason lifting sessions at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., so his players can hit one before or after any summer jobs: “It gets the kids together and keeps them together, so they can hang out with one another.”

Collins said sports medicine meetings will continue to look toward the fall season, with the NHIAA’s sports-specific committees also adding input. Phase Three, once implemented, could include games or scrimmages, but it’s too soon to commit to them now.

“There may be parts and pieces out sooner rather than later,” Collins said. “The schedule start date, we’ll have to take a look at that, but we also have to anticipate other stuff, the need to push a season back because of schedule changes. (Athletic directors) are engaged in a conversation of whether to play all of the games on a schedule. There’s a lot to be considered in the coming weeks.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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