No, teams are not back to full-on practices. Not yet. But, high schools in the Desert Sands Unified School District have started athletic conditioning this week under strict guidelines.
Teams are allowed to hold outdoor conditioning practices for an hour at a time. Players must pass a temperature check and screening prior to taking the field. Once on the field, there can be no physical contact or shared equipment.
Palm Desert, La Quinta and Shadow Hills high schools started athletic conditioning this week. Indio High School plans to start Monday.
After months of Zoom meetings, athletes and coaches are happy to be back out there, no matter the restrictions.
“Oh it’s great. It’s great finally being able to come out here and be with the guys and all that. I’ve been working out a lot, waiting for this moment to come back,” said Daniel Rom-Toribio, a La Quinta senior linebacker.
“It gave me goosebumps, you know, just being out here, having the grass underneath your feet kind of deal, and back out in practice, so um, it definitely didn’t feel normal obviously with everything going on, but it felt as close to normal as possible,” said Patrick Rivenes, La Quinta's head football coach.
At La Quinta, players have to arrive 10 minutes before the schedule practice time to begin the check-in process.
Athletes must be split into cohorts of no more than 10. Each cohort is assigned a coach. Rivenes said La Quinta's practices days alternate between sprinting and circuits within those established cohorts.
“Football is the most physical sport that we play here in high school and, you know, you’ve got to avoid injuries and the only way to do that is by having an offseason program and unfortunately we didn’t have one. So just having the opportunity to get back out here and slowly getting the guys back in shape and stuff like that. You know, I feel comforted by the fact that we’re actually out here getting them closer and closer to being able to participate,” Rivenes said.
Both Rivenes and Palm Desert head football Coach Shane McComb said this was quite easy to do. Palm Desert split its athletes amongst its 13 coaches by position since most of the Aztecs only play on one side of the ball.
"Each step is just a little bit of progress towards our, hopefully having a season, but you know, we've stayed in contact and between offense and defense and implementing things online, we've done our playbook, all that stuff, through meetings, with our workouts, so we're as ready as we can be right now and we're just hoping they lift it up and we can play a season," McComb said.
McComb said his team gets their conditioning done during the school day and in the first 15 minutes of practice. After that, it's football activities. Palm Desert has had to get creative, but they have found ways to do so without equipment or physical contact.
“Just enjoying the time being with my teammates while I can. I mean, the masks aren’t really what we expected but at least we get the time we can,” said Brock Stravolo, a senior tight end at Palm Desert.
“Of course everybody’s, you know, really anxious to get back to getting to real football practice, throw the ball around and stuff, but right now, we’re making do with what we got and it’s not the end of the world, you know, masks… it’s a mask, so we get used to wearing it and we’ll just keep working however we can,” said Alexander Whitley, a senior cornerback at Palm Desert.
While these workouts are voluntary, McComb said his entire varsity team has been there, along with half of junior varsity.
“We have a great group of guys and just coming in day-in and day-out, putting our best effort,” said Isaiah Durant, a senior wide receiver at Palm Desert.
The Aztecs have been dominant in the Coachella Valley, winning three straight Desert Empire League titles. McComb believes this year's team is his best yet.
“Our guys are ready,” McComb said.