When Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state would move to Phase Two on Friday as Louisiana continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it put high school athletics in position to begin summer activities on Monday as scheduled.
That will be for most of the state. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has announced her city is not ready to advance to Phase Two, causing Crescent City schools to operate under Phase One restrictions.
“The consensus is we are not changing everything for one particular region of the state,” Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine told members of the media on Wednesday via a video conference. “New Orleans was under a different kind of order earlier than anybody else in the state because of the pandemic.
“It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it wrong. I’m trying to work for the majority. The mayor made the choices she made. I trust her decisions and leadership in that regard. The rest of the state has moved to Phase Two, which is staggered groups of 25 by recommendation. I’m hoping they (New Orleans schools) can catch up, so to speak.”
Among the schools having to deal with Phase One restrictions in New Orleans is Holy Cross.
“The Phase Two situation for us just means we can’t go with a 25-to-1 ratio. We still have to go with nine players to one coach. It kind of puts everybody on a different playing field if you are in New Orleans,” Holy Cross coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
It also puts the Tigers behind an early eight ball to open the season, according to Saltaformaggio.
“Our first four games are at St. Thomas More, at Covington, at Chalmette and at Shaw. None of those guys are in New Orleans, so all of those guys have an advantage over us because they get to start with a 25-to-1 ratio,” the Holy Cross coach said.
The Phase One restrictions, Saltaformaggio said, will affect how the Tigers conduct early workouts.
“We will have longer days because we have 89 guys on our varsity football roster, so I will have to lift nine into the 89. That’s a 10-hour day, but if that’s what we have to do, it’s what we have to do just to keep up until our wonderful mayor decides we can follow the rest of the United States of America,” said Saltaformaggio.
Saltaformaggio, going into his first year at Holy Cross after his successful stint as head coach at Hahnville, said the plan is to have nine players with a coach in the weight room and another nine players and a coach outside running and then they will rotate and do that until all 89 get done.
“We have a weight room that has 18 racks but we can only use nine of them,” lamented Saltaformaggio.
As high school athletic summer activities being under Phase Two, they have received recommendations on how to safely proceed. Bonine stressed they are just recommendations.
“Those are recommendations from the sports medicine advisory committee of the National Federation, which encompasses over 300 doctors and athletic trainers nationwide, as well as our sports medicine advisory committee,” said Bonine. “They are recommendations, not mandates.”
The use of a mask is an example of an item that is a recommendation, not a mandate, according to Bonine.
“Football coaches have been having indigestion asking if the athletes have to wear masks in the weight room with staggered groups of 25,” the LHSAA executive director said. “You don’t wear a mask if you don’t want to. That’s a decision you have to make within your own school and own school parish district. If you wear them, you wear them. If you don’t, you don’t.
“Temperature checks – all of the stuff we have recommended are recommendations by medical personnel.”
Monday will bring unchartered territory for high school athletics. While the summer activities start date is a bit behind the usual schedule, everything is still in the early part of the process, Bonine said.
“I’ve stated let’s not do anything in May and June that affects July and August. Apparently we did OK in May but I also know we are anticipating what might be the residual affects of the Memorial Day Weekend may or may not have across our state. Once we get past that, guess what? What do we have next? – the Fourth of July.”