MACON, Ga. — The GHSA announced Thursday that high school players and coaches can return to the field in the next few weeks. Beginning June 8th, teams can start conditioning together. There will be restrictions to try to keep players and coaches safe and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The GHSA's board of trustees and director Robin Hines met and decided it was time to get back to a sense of normalcy. The league released a memo detailing restrictions for conditioning-only workouts.

Some coaches, like reigning 1A-public softball state champion Katherine Smith, cheered for the move. 

"I feel like it's time, the kids are ready for it. We're ready for it and as long as we follow the guidelines that the GHSA is setting everyone should be safe," Smith said.

Other coaches, like Baldwin High football's, Jesse Hicks preached caution. He said right now there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Right now, the way things are going, I haven't seen anywhere where I would feel even comfortable. You think about how parents feel. 'Is this going to be a safe environment for my child?'" Hicks said.

The GHSA released restrictions for athletes to work out for conditioning only, meaning no balls or sports equipment. Other guidelines include questioning athletes about their health and travel, no use of "water cows" or fountains, using masks and limiting workouts to a consistent group of 20 people or less, including coaches.

"We'll have to take the precautions, cleaning up before the next group comes in with the next coach. I don't think us, speaking softball, will be affected at all," Smith said.

It will be up to each coach and team to decide whether they return on June 8th. Ultimately, the decision lies in each program's confidence in their plan and facilities and in their responsibility to keep student athletes safe.

"I just think it's time for us to just wait, see how things happen, see how they matriculate and then if you say 'Well coach, you're going to be a little bit behind.' I'd rather be a little bit behind than having to go tell a mother...or go to a funeral of a kid or a coach," Hicks said.

It's important to emphasize that the GHSA mandated that all summer workouts are voluntary so if an athlete or parent decides they don't feel comfortable, the athlete can choose to not participate.

The SEC made a similar announcement for their college-level athletes on Friday, announcing that voluntary in-person workouts would also start on June 8th.

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