Monday marked the first day that players and coaches in the San Mateo Union High School District could get back out on the field. While there were some new procedures to get used to and an occasional hiccup, most were happy simply to be out of the house and back on the field with teammates and coaches.
“It was amazing (to be back on the field),” said Shadi Qobti, a rising senior and three-year starting center for the San Mateo High School football team and who was part of first group back on the field at San Mateo.
Four of the six schools in the SMUHSD — Burlingame, Capuchino, Hillsdale and San Mateo — took the field Monday. Aragon is planning a Tuesday start, while Mills will begin next Monday.
All players entering the facilities must answer questions about their health over the last two weeks and have their temperature taken. Each workout group is limited to a maximum of 12 players to one coach. The schools agreed on sessions up to 45 minutes each and then a 15-minute changeover during which the first group clears out before the next group takes the field. The workouts consist of conditioning drills: pushups, situps, planks, running and the like.
“The biggest risk and management issues come in the overlap period,” said James Madison, Hillsdale athletic director, who was out at the school’s football field helping with the check-in process and making sure things were going smoothly Monday afternoon.
While the schools have known about this date for the last couple weeks, it didn’t make it any easier in getting everything put together.
“This thing is a fire drill,” said Steve Sell, Aragon football coach and athletic director.
Sell said the biggest issue facing student-athletes is getting their clearance paperwork filled out. There is a website the district uses for players to record their required doctor’s physicals, as well as all the permission slips and other paperwork necessary to play high school sports. Sell said physicals are good for a year after they were performed, but the clearance package is something that has to be filled out once the school year is over.
“For some people, it takes three minutes (to fill out),” Sell said. “And others, three days. I imagine some kids may get turned away [Monday].”
At Hillsdale, players were instructed once they got on the field, to select one of the cones set out, set their water bottles and towels down and take a seat right next to that cone. On top of everything else, social distancing and the wearing of a face covering were mandatory before and after the workout. Hillsdale football coach Mike Parodi said one player showed up without his face cover. When he told Parodi he forgot it at home, he was sent home without having participated in a workout and would be ineligible to do so until Tuesday. Once assigned a group, players are not allowed to join another for the first three weeks of workouts.
Marc Baldwin, a rising senior who is a receiver on the football team, runs track at Hillsdale and was part of Monday’s second group. He wasn’t sure they would get much work done during the summer with the ongoing pandemic. He said he would work out on his own running routes, but was interested to see what the new workouts would be like.
“I like that we have a chance to do something,” Baldwin said. “I was a little surprised (the district let us back on the field). I wondered what the process would be.”
And it wasn’t just the players who were excited. San Mateo assistant coach Adam Hyndman cut short a lake vacation to be back for Monday’s first workout and San Mateo head coach Jeff Scheller, who was helped spearhead the return, had scheduled his group’s workout for the last of the day, but was there at 2 p.m. to help set up the player intake area.
“I just came early today to make sure everything goes the way it’s supposed to go,” Scheller said. “It feels good to feel the turf again. … The kids are excited. You can tell.”
Added Qobti: “I’m glad we’re back on the turf. I feel it’s better to be with coaches and teammates to build chemistry.”