INDIANAPOLIS — Across the state, thousands of student athletes are in pools and weight rooms, on the courts and practice fields, preparing for the upcoming high school sports season.
School rivalries aside, COVID-19 is the biggest opponent facing everyone. Schools are taking unprecedented precautions to protect athletes. Keeping students safe will change the way they train, practice and play their sport.
"We have a plan in place," said Dave Paddock, Pike High School athletic director.
At Pike, athletes must bring their own personal water bottles and come dressed for practice. Locker rooms are closed.
"They will leave practice, the education piece of washing your uniform, washing your bottle, everything you are touching as soon as you get home," Paddock said.
There will be no celebratory high fives or hugs. There's sanitizer for hands and disinfectant for equipment. Athletes won't be tested but will be screened for coronavirus symptoms. They will not wear face masks.
"With conditioning, there is the fear of overheating," Paddock said. "So it is a new challenge for us. I think we are ready for it."
Head football coach Pat Echeverria looked ready, wearing his brand new plastic face shield.
"My other coaches are going to be miserable wearing masks in the 90-degree heat," he said.
Athletes will train in separate groups of no more than 15, with little interaction between groups. That is intended to make a potential outbreak easier to trace and contain.
But under playing conditions, keeping athletes at safe social distances from each other will be impossible.
"There are times when you are not," Echeverria said. "When you line up to play football, part of that is contact. The biggest thing we have to do as coaches is minimize the contact as much as we can."
And be prepared to change the precautions to meet the challenges of an ever-changing pandemic.