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In college, I knew girls who scheduled afternoon classes around their favorite soap operas.

I don’t do soap operas. Never have. Never will.

But there I was last Thursday, watching the last few agonizing minutes of General Hospital before our local ABC channel switched over to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily press briefing on covid-19. After much anticipation from coaches and players, Hutchinson announced high schools in Arkansas can resume athletic activities beginning June 1.

That’s good news for sports writers, and I will celebrate today by tossing a Nerf ball to our dog, Ruffin, by far the smartest and most athletic in the Fires’ household. He can catch and return accompanied, of course, with a little slobber.

Thursday’s announcement about team sports was not unexpected, especially after Hutchinson met with Donald Trump in the White House the day before to tell the President our state was indeed opening up. It was good news especially for sports with limited contact like baseball, softball, golf, track and field, cross country, and tennis. But contact sports such as football and basketball are permitted workouts only in small groups instead of full-blown games or practices.

Baby steps, for sure. But it’s a welcomed first step for coaches who’ve long grown tired of holding virtual meetings with large groups of athletes via Zoom and Google Classroom. Coaches are eager to see their players, even at 6 feet apart.

“I appreciate Governor Hutchinson’s wisdom and care for all of us and certainly for our student-athletes and coaches,” Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway said. “We are thankful for the opportunity to begin training on campus once again. It will be our mission to create and maintain the safest environment possible for our athletes and our staff. We look forward to participating in our summer training program and reuniting with our athletes.”

Football in shorts is better than no football at all and, if all goes well, Shiloh Christian will be the place to be for the annual Southwest Elite 7-on-7 tournament scheduled for July 9-11. Shiloh Christian plans to hold the event while recognizing some restrictions will likely still be in place.

“At this time, we are not sure how many teams will attend,” Conaway said. “We will be monitoring and adjusting along with all other athletic and non-athletic outdoor venues.”

With no spring practice, football coaches are far behind in teaching and evaluating from where they’d normally be. One coach compared it to the old days when players would scatter in November or December, then reappear in August for practice a few days before the start of school.

Nearly 30 schools have had changes at the head coaching position, including Pea Ridge, which hired former longtime Fort Smith Southside Southside coach Jeff Williams to replace Stephen Neal, who returned to Oklahoma for a coaching job. All coaches need to see players in action, including Benton-ville West coach Bryan Pratt, who said as many as six sophomores could start for the Wolverines this season. Fayetteville coach Casey Dick must also find a quarterback after seniors Hank Gibbs and Quinn McClain both graduated.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Science Sports Committed recommended guidelines on how to resume activities during covid-19. The guidelines include a detailed list of protocols for locker rooms and training rooms; tips for team gatherings, transportation and on-field hydration; equipment disinfection; and a number of other recommendations.

“We’ve done a million Zoom meetings, but it’s not the same,” Russellville coach Jeff Weaver said. “My hope is that we all follow the guidelines so we can progress and have a more normal situation.”

Football coaches throughout the state will be thrilled to see their players in person instead of on a computer screen. I’ll be just as happy without another minute of a weepy soap opera awaiting word from the Governor.

I like my drama emanating from the sports fields, not from Port Charles.

Print Headline: Governor’s sports news welcomed

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