The Fort Mill Yellow Jackets returned to workouts Monday after a positive COVID-19 test a week earlier put everything on hold.
Fort Mill missed a week of workouts after an individual associated with the football program tested positive. The individual hasn’t been publicly identified, so whether the person is a player or coach, it isn’t known.
Head coach Rob McNeely said numbers were down some on the first day back Monday simply because this week was originally slated as an off week and players had already made plans. The individual who tested positive is still out and hasn’t been back to practice.
“The parents have been concerned, but understanding,” McNeely said. “The parents have been great. We kept good records of who was in what group. You want to make everyone feel comfortable.”
Fort Mill School District officials said that Fort Mill will be returning to normal workouts under Phase I without any extra precautionary measures added.
“We are still following guidelines from the (S.C.) High School League,” said Joe Burke, district spokesman. “We got temperature checks and different screenings going on.”
McNeely said that despite no extra precautions implemented, his coaching staff is taking precautions on their own by not gathering in the coaches’ office together and doing things in groups as coaches.
“Our offices aren’t being used,” he said.
The positive COVID-19 test was the first within the Fort Mill School District’s athletics program among the three high schools, which started workouts June 15. All Fort Mill football coaches were tested as well with McNeely saying that it wasn’t the most comfortable thing, he has ever done in getting a test.
“My life went on hold,” he said. “It is a scary thing, but so many lives are affected because of contact tracing.”
All three local high schools had hoped to be making progress out of Phase I of the guidelines established by the High School League, but those guidelines didn’t have an end date for the initial phase. The High School League met last week and established that they are exploring moving to a Phase 1.5, where groups of players will be able to share a football. Currently groups can be no more than 10 people, which includes nine players and one coach. Each group can only take up one location at the school meaning only one group can be on one practice field, while another group of 10 can be on another field. At Fort Mill High groups were spread out among the practice fields, baseball field, lacrosse fields and other places around campus.
If the High School League implements Phase 1.5, then each group will get one ball to share among the 10 people.
“Right now, there is no sharing of the ball that can take place,” said Jerome Singleton, SCHSL executive director.
Singleton said there is still no date for Phase II or Phase III and with the rise in COVID-19 cases around the state, the last thing they want to do is rush back.
“We don’t need to rush a date and jeopardize the safety of kids,” he said.
The High School League executive committee also passed a motion last week to allow practice July 27-30, which is normally a dead period for football during the summer.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep