U-46 to begin summer conditioning camps Monday
After months of working out by himself, Alec Palella is looking forward to training outdoors with teammates to get in shape for the fall football season.
"I'm just ready to get back out on the field. It's been too long," said the 17-year-old tight end, soon-to-be a senior at Bartlett High School.
Elgin Area School District U-46 will begin in-person summer conditioning camps for students starting Monday at its five high schools -- Bartlett, Elgin, Larkin, South Elgin, and Streamwood.
"I'm super excited," Palella said. "Being able to see everybody again, even though we're not going to be close, it's going to be super cool. I'll be with nine of my buddies."
Officials are taking safety precautions in line with guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois High School Association.
Camp activities will be outdoors on athletic fields without equipment in groups of 10 -- nine students to one coach -- set apart by 30 feet. Students will observe social distancing, wear masks when not standing 6-feet apart and wash hands at sanitizing stations. Temperature checks aren't required but students must pass a health and wellness checklist to ensure they don't have COVID-19 symptoms.
"It's not normal, but it's a taste of normal," said Ethan Karolczak, athletic director of Larkin High School in Elgin. "I think everybody can use that."
The eight-day conditioning camps are open to all high school students, not just athletes. They will focus on fitness activities, including body weight strength training, speed, agility, endurance and general conditioning exercises, especially after several months of students being without in-person training with coaches. Each school will offer two two-hour sessions Monday through Thursday.
Larkin's four practice fields can accommodate about 120 students per session and almost 250 students in total. If more students register, officials could use tennis courts, and baseball and softball diamonds in the outfield. As of Friday afternoon, 104 students had signed up, including students who have not been involved in sports, Karolczak said.
"I think they just want to be around people," he said, adding it's an "opportunity for social and emotional support for them to be around their friends, coaches, to be back in touch with campus."
At Bartlett High School, officials expect about 300 students to participate. Up to 150 students could train on the field at a time.
"We're excited about it," Athletic Director Jeff Bral said. "We are staging a pickup area for every single group. They don't interact with one another."
Bral said coaches are conscious a lot of eyes are on them to ensure things go smoothly.
Elgin High School has more than 100 student-athletes from freshman through seniors signed up. The school can accommodate 200 participants each day.
"Our focus is just the joy of bringing everybody back and the camaraderie we hope to build after several months of being away from campus," Athletic Director Paul Pennington said.