PANTHERS

Members of the Jackson County football team break a huddle during a recent conditioning session. The GSHA has announced conditioning and workout groups can increase to 50 participants with the use of equipment and balls starting June 22. 

In a development signaling a return toward more traditional summer workouts, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) will allow teams to use balls and equipment for workouts and expand workout groups to 50 starting June 22.

Scrimmaging is still not allowed.

Georgia High School Association executive director Robin Hines made the announcement though a statement posted to the GHSA's website. 

Athletes across the state returned for conditioning and workouts on June 8, after a long hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic, with numerous restrictions. Those limits included prohibiting balls and equipment at conditioning/workout sessions, limiting the number of participants to 20 per group and checking athlete’s temperatures prior to participation.

After a week of workouts, the GHSA allowed conditioning and workout groups to increase from 20 to 25 beginning with June 15’s workout/conditioning sessions.

In increasing groups to 50 participants now, the GHSA said existing groups of 25 may be combined into one group of 50.

Local athletic directors took the GHSA's announcement as a positive sign with hopes that more restrictions will be eased after the GHSA-mandated "dead week" during the first week in July. 

"We are excited that we are transitioning back to athletics," Jefferson athletic director Bill Navas said. "I have reached out to the GHSA with some specifics so that my coaches can plan out next week. It looks like we will be mostly focusing on individual skill development. We have the dead week after that.

"Hopefully we will have limited practice restrictions when we get back after the dead week. The safety of our student-athletes will always be paramount."

Jackson County athletic director Brad Hayes called the decision "encouraging."

"We feel like we have a good plan in place to keep our kids and coaches as safe as we possibly can, while allowing them to get back to some sort of normalcy," he said. "Hopefully we continue this trend after the dead week."

East Jackson athletic director Shawn Lindsey expressed similar feelings. 

"We’re excited," he said. "Our kids and coaches are just excited to get back to doing some activities that seem a little more normal. I’m hopeful that we can continue to progress to a truly normal July.

"We’re certainly gonna take as many precautions as possible to keep our folks clean and safe while doing these activities. July will be an extremely important month of preparation for all of our athletes to get ready for our fall sports season."

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