It may not look like a traditional workout, but more than 500 student-athletes at Evanston Township High School are still getting in some training for three weeks this summer.

The ETHS athletic department’s summer strength and conditioning camps began Wednesday, and Athletic Director Chris Livatino told Evanston Now they’re off to a strong start.

“It’s been terrific,” he said. “Not only are we helping kids to build their bodies back up again, but we’re also helping them to build their connections back with each other and their coaches and our school. It’s just great to have them back on campus.”

The 516 Wildkits participating are taking part in nine programs, including generic strength programs and sport-specific trainings. Some meet every day, while others are scattered throughout the week.

To ensure adequate space for social distancing, the camps are all taking place outdoors at ETHS’s Lazier Field. Participants are spread 15 feet apart for their 45- to 50-minute trainings.

The department would have liked to have training take place this summer in its new Wellness and Performance Center, Livatino said, but since the COVID-19 pandemic makes that impossible for now, coaches are making do with different kinds of workouts on the field.

“We do have dumbbells and barbells that we brought from the strength center out to the facility for this three week period. But yeah, it’s definitely different,” Livatino said. “You’re not bench pressing, you’re not squatting, you’re not capable of doing a lot of the things that you normally would have done.”

For now, safety is on the forefront during the camps. Students and coaches are screened with health history questions and temperature checks upon entering each day. They wear face masks while entering and exiting and wipe down any equipment they use at the beginning and end of training. The training groups are limited to nine participants each.

Outdoor programs also come with their own hiccups — camps were rained out for most of Monday, for instance.  

Still, Livatino said, they’re an important opportunity to help get athletes back into shape, since most of them haven’t been exercising at their normal level of rigor since ETHS moved to e-learning in March. He hopes more sport-specific training will be possible under proposed IHSA guidelines, pending approval from IDPH and District 202, after Illinois moves to phase four of its reopening plan on Friday.

“We want to keep keep moving the needle where kids are going to be able to participate fully in athletics,” he said. “You gotta crawl before you can run here.”

Jasper Davidoff, a 2018 graduate of Evanston Township High School, is news editor of The Student Life at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

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