Valley Christian High School began welcoming student athletes back to campus this past week as part of a phased reopening plan announced by school administrators on Tuesday, May 26.
The plan involves four phases, with the first beginning the day after Memorial Day. Student athletes were allowed back on campus in small groups of 10 or less with one coach to begin offseason training programs. Greg Haagsma, Valley Christian’s longtime athletic director, said coaches have already established plans for groups of athletes to arrive at different times throughout the day.
“We are going to have one group come in for a certain amount of time and then the next and so on,” Haagsma said. “We will probably do it somewhat by position but right now it might be by age. This phase one approach, especially for football where we have a new coach and new offensive coordinator, might be a classroom setting where they are learning in that setting rather than only being on the field.”
Valley Christian became the first East Valley school to welcome athletes back after the coronavirus pandemic led to the shutdown of all schools and sports in March. With state health officials gradually reopening businesses and other amenities across the state, June 1 has become the target date for other districts and charter schools across the East Valley.
Gilbert Public Schools Athletic Director Stephen McDowell announced a four-level plan for summer workouts to begin in the district on Monday. Mesa Public Schools Athletic Director Steve Hogan said a proposal was submitted to the governing board for teams to begin workouts on 8.
Tempe Union High School District Athletic Director Bruce Kipper said a plan has been drafted and hopes for teams to begin workouts in mid-June.
A task force was created at Valley Christian to develop the school’s plans, which involve daily temperature checks for students and coaches through all four phases. Should anyone exhibit a temperature above 100.4 degrees, they will be sent home. There will be no contact allowed between athletes in phases one or two and sharing of water or other hydration equipment is prohibited.
Once in phase two, groups can expand to no more than 30 people. Even then, however, there is no training allowed on an adjacent field or court between groups. Once in the third phase, physical contact is allowed, however it should be held to a minimum, according to the guidelines.
The fourth phase allows for groups of 50 or less people. At that time, separate groups can train on adjacent fields or courts. It is also the phase that allows the introduction of controlled scrimmages. There is no specific timetable for when Valley Christian’s athletic programs are able to advance to the next phase. Haagsma said it depends entirely on guidelines from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and state health experts.
“We aren’t trying to do things that are not acceptable by Gov. Ducey or not appropriate,” Haagsma said. “We are very cognizant of what he allows. We will move on through these phases as he continue to open our state.”
While uncertainty remains surrounding a fall sports season, Haagsma believes allowing students back on campus is a step in the right direction.
“I’m a sports guy, so I’m very excited,” Haagsma said. “We want to open it back up. We want kids back on campus, but we want to do it in a way where we are respectful to all the different parties and how they feel.”