Whiteaker running back Marquis Jackson breaks away from defenders to pick up a first down in a middle school football game from last season (File).
Even though there haven’t been any contests since March due to COVID-19, many high school athletes in Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) have been participating in off-season workouts since July.
Now, student-athletes at the junior high level are able to return to their school’s athletic facilities on a limited basis.
SKPS middle school athletes were approved last month to start workouts and training during Oregon Schools Activities Association’s (OSAA) Season 1. Tuesday, Oct. 27 was the first day middle school teams could hold a modified practice.
Scott Coburn, who is the Whiteaker Middle School 8th grade volleyball coach and middle school athletic director for the district, worked alongside Matthew Biondi, the SKPS middle school director of education, to formulate a plan to have athletes return to their school teams for the first time in nearly nine months.
“Biondi and I sat in on a high school athletic directors meeting with the goal of wanting to adjust their plan to the middle school level,” Coburn said. “It was a process we went through to make sure we were exactly where we needed to be.”
Football, track & field, volleyball, wrestling and cross country are the five middle school sports the district provides, but not all sports will be holding Season 1 workouts.
Whiteaker Middle School will be holding workouts for football, cross country and volleyball — additional sports will be offered at a later date. Claggett Creek Middle School elected to not begin their workouts until Nov. 30 — they plan to offer football, cross county, volleyball and wrestling.
Middle school teams will be operating under phase two guidance from the OSAA — which involves limiting sharing of balls within pods, frequent disinfecting of equipment and maintaining social distancing. All students will be required to wear a mask in order to participate.
“We aren’t going to make mistakes. We’re going to keep everyone safe,” Coburn said. “Everything will be cleaned to the best of our ability.”
Schools are permitted to have one activity on campus per day during the week, but can choose to do less. For example, last week Whiteaker Middle School held workouts for three days last week — football players practiced on Tuesday, volleyball players met on Wednesday and cross country athletes worked out on Thursday.
There is no cost for participation in Season 1 activities. Transportation, however, will not be provided.
All athletes that are interested in participating are required to complete the registration process on FamilyID — which can be found on each schools’ website.
“This is all about making contact with kids and having them develop their skills. We’re not doing this to gain any kind of competitive advantage. Right now, it’s about care and connection,” Coburn said.