If you have already listened to last week’s episode of Inside the Lines Podcast, you already know my thoughts on high school athletes returning to practice June 1. I am craving the return of sports as much as everyone else but I have to admit I’m a little worried an early return during the training period will have a negative effect on the chances of a return to actual competition this fall.

The number of confirmed cases across the state and across the country continue to climb and we have yet to come close to the guidelines set by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of what a safe re-opening should look like but our governing bodies do not seem to care too much now. I don’t agree with how quickly people are pushing to get back to “normal” but I know athletes are thrilled to get back on to the field right now.

Sports play a vital role in many of our lives but, and I know this may come as a shock, it’s not the only thing that matters. When athletes get ready to make the return to workouts Monday, they will need to be focused on a much bigger picture than getting ready for a possible season. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about this being a crucial time for athletes to take personal responsibility while working out from home whether that be staying in shape or being honest about any sustained injuries. Those responsibilities are still important now but being back with the team requires a little bit more accountability.

We all know athletes like to show off their toughness and play through slight injuries. While that may be OK for a twisted ankle or sore back, dealing with the coronavirus is not about being tough. It’s about being smart.

Leaders will have to make sure everyone on their teams is taking the return seriously. Don’t closely huddle into groups, don’t spit on the field and don’t be afraid to tell your teammate when his or her actions are making you feel uncomfortable.

I know that is not the easiest thing to do even without a pandemic going on but it is more important than ever now. If someone is standing closer to you than you’d like, say something about it. You can be excited about returning to sports but also take some precautions at the same time.

It’s even OK to be too uncomfortable about even returning to the field this early. I have been encouraged by some of the responses I have gotten from football coaches who are already making plans to provide alternative ways to train for those who have some underlying conditions, who live with their grandparents or who just don’t want to get out of the house just yet.

Being uncomfortable does not make you any less tough than someone who is out on that field. And any good teammate will respect that decision especially if you keep up your own training from a distance.

We all want to see some competitions return in August and I certainly hope I get proven wrong about how these next two months will go. But how everyone handles these practices and workouts will play a big role in making sure that happens so be smart and speak up because I don’t want to see any more seasons get canceled because of this. 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.