Roanoke Rapids athletic director Mark Snead, shown here in a Daily Herald file photo from March 4, spoke with cautious optimism on Wednesday about the school’s resumption of skill development workouts amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Back in black-and-gold, sort of.

Such is now the case for Roanoke Rapids athletic director Mark Snead, who shared details regarding developmental workouts on Wednesday after the school’s re-entry plan for student-athletes was unanimously approved by board leadership some 12 hours earlier.

“Obviously, I’m happy for the kids,” Snead said during a wide-ranging phone interview, conducted lengthwise with cautious optimism. “A lot of them lost their spring season, the end of their spring season last year in different sports, and now just getting them back into the athletics realm — which, you know, is second to academics, obviously — but is still a very important part of the high school dynamic for most of these kids.”

Indeed so, but one now layered in new ways and means.

Under the plan’s scope, any team can hold workouts four times per week if it is within a month of its first practice date, while all others will be limited to three assemblies per week until meeting the same calendar-driven criteria.

Thus, cross country and volleyball — which begin, per the N.C. High School Athletic Association, on Nov. 4 — can hold the max number of workouts per week beginning Monday, with swimming and basketball capped at three per week until Oct. 26 and Nov. 7, respectively.

All other sports will follow the same scale, with no exceptions.

“We’re just happy that they’ll be able to get back,” Snead said. “And hopefully we can, through the physical conditioning, actually promote … the mental health of these children as well.”

Safety first, and always

Protocol, public health standards, social distancing and more.

So has gone, and certainly will go, the coordinated response to COVID-19 from the Jacket community, which embraced the nation’s new normal as an inroad to the safe return of its storied athletic program.

Because once back on campus, the rigor of preparation awaits.

“Since most of them have not been in a high school, competitive atmosphere for six months or more now, we want to make sure we’re giving them every opportunity to be in the physical shape they need to be,” Snead said of the school’s approach to between-the-lines well-being. “And with preseasons shortened before games and contests occur … we want to try to limit the risk of injury to our athletes by having them in the best shape possible before practices even start.”

And with compressed schedules in place to accommodate, essentially, 15 seasons over the next nine months, such a blueprint — one weighted in public health and on-campus efficiency measures — was indeed necessary.

Details and particulars

Unless otherwise stipulated by Gov. Roy Cooper, a maximum of 50 participants will be allowed for outdoor skill sessions, with 25 representing top-shelf capacity for indoor workouts.

Per the Jax roll-out, all sessions are 90 minutes of voluntary work, and will be governed by physical forms dated on or after March 1, 2019.

The school’s weight room will be open per NCHSAA guidelines, with cleaning of facilities and equipment taking place after each gathering.

All locker rooms are to remain closed.

Lastly, there is the matter of school paperwork — specifically, a waiver form generated by RRHS officials — that must be signed by prospective athletes and at least one guardian prior to participation.

“We’re going to follow the rules that our coach tells us,” Snead said of the documentation, which will allow families occasion to acknowledge the risks associated with competitive prep athletics in the midst of the current pandemic. “I want it signed.”