HVCHS’s athletics department prepared for a return of fall sports

Hopewell Valley Central High School's football players march onto the field in Princeton during the 2019 season. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Hopewell Valley Central High School's football players march onto the field in Princeton during the 2019 season. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

Hopewell Valley Central High School’s (HVCHS) summer workouts for fall sports are already underway, as the athletics department awaits any further changes to the official season openings of fall competition.

The decision to attend in-person summer workouts was up to individual student athletes and their families. The athletics department had released their procedures and guidelines prior to the Aug. 3 start date for workouts.

“Our athletes would not have been able to have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the support from our Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Smith, and our amazing Board of Education,” Director of Athletics Tripp Becker said. “We have 378 athletes registered to attend our summer workouts, which will be a great opportunity for them.”

If everything continues to go according to plan, official fall sports practices can begin on Sept. 14 and competition will start with girls tennis on Sept. 28, all other sports except football on Oct. 1, and high school football scheduled to officially kick off on Oct. 2, per New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) guidance.

“Coaches have all been trained with proper procedures for how to run their practices safely and are excited to see their athletes again. In addition, we have procedures in place for drop off and pick up, as well as expectations for safe behavior during practices,” Becker said. “We have communicated this information to all of our athletes and their families, so they are aware before they arrive to their workouts and practices.”

In order to limit the number of athletes on high school grounds, a schedule was developed to allow only one team on the premises at a time for when HVCHS started phase 1 for outdoor summer workouts on Aug. 3.

“We have also made sure that each team has developed small groups (or pods) which will not interact with one another, to limit the interaction between athletes. Also, within those groups, the coaches are ensuring that athletes are socially distant at all times,” Becker said. “When athletes arrive to campus to start workouts and practice, every athlete will have his/her temperature checked and must complete a daily pre-screening form regarding potential symptoms or exposure prior to being admitted to practice.”

Any athlete that answers “yes” to any of the form questions or has a fever of 100.4 or higher will have to return home. They cannot attend practices until they are symptom-free and have a note from a doctor clearing them of any COVID-19 symptoms.

“Athletes will not be sharing water bottles or equipment during workouts. We are probably being conservative with some of the procedures we’ve put into place, but we want to make sure we maintain the safety of our athletes, coaches, and families,” Becker said. “We are taking every precaution. We are making sure that our workouts and practices follow not only the NJSIAA guidelines, but the guidelines and recommendations provided by the CDC, New Jersey Department of Health and our school doctors to ensure everyone’s safety.”

As of Aug. 3, regular seasons will conclude for girls tennis on Oct. 23, Nov. 7 for football, and Nov. 12 for all other fall sports. There will be a limited postseason that will span from Oct.24-31 for girls tennis and for all other sports Nov.13-22, according to the NJSIAA.

For schools that do not participate in the postseason, they may also continue to play until Nov. 22, with Thanksgiving football games as the exception. Thanksgiving football games will be allowed after Nov. 22 and will depend on decisions by individual school. Outside of football, no other fall sports will be able to play in competition after Nov. 22.

“Practices and games, if we get there, are going to look different, so please be patient,” he said. “Even though we are taking every precaution with our practices here, we need our athletes to be careful when they are not with us; please make sure they are following proper socially distant guidelines and are wearing a mask to not only protect themselves, but their families and teammates.”

Becker is concerned about the possibility of fall sports being shut down if a rising trend of COVID-19 cases occurs in New Jersey.

“This is not just a Hopewell Valley issue; it’s a county, state, country and global issue. We all need to do our part to beat this,” he said. “If we can all follow the guidelines and recommendations that have been given, we have a much better chance of getting back to some sort of normalcy, and with that normalcy will come sports.”