The high school football season is five months away and even it can’t slip the widening grasp of the coronavirus.
As sports continue its standby in the presence of the raging global pandemic, offseason preparations for the gridiron aren’t excluded. With the current social distancing measures in place for at least a few more weeks, and the long-expected timetable for a complete return to societal normalcy, the reality of when the highly-spectated, no-limits, contact sport can return poses an awfully big question mark.
“It’s just kind of the wait-and-see game,” Fairview coach Tom McCartney said. “We still have our spring and summer calendar and we will just adjust and be flexible as we learn more. We are definitely missing some things we would normally be doing right now.”
This is the time of the year the Knights and their long-time coach would have voluntary morning workouts a few times a week. And while spring sports would currently be the focus of multi-sport athletes who play football, the coach said the weeks following spring break start the long progression to get mentally and physically prepared for the season opener in August.
But times are different and routine has disappeared — sports, no different. Going forward, the large football rosters and its variety of specialized position players will be tasked with working as one to grow physically and mentally despite the current restrictions to stay apart.
“I’m trying to stay status-quo with what we would normally do in the same timelines,” McCartney said. “And if we can’t do it physically in person, we’ll find a way to do it mentally and from online.”
As of now, coaches and trainers in the athletic arena have gone online as a way to communicate with their players and clients — not unlike how teachers are currently reaching their students with classrooms shut down.
McCartney, who is also a P.E. teacher at Fairview, said he uses Google Classroom as a means to organize and keep track of work for athletics and school curriculum.
Meanwhile, over at Erie High School, Tigers football coach Chad Cooper is using an app called Volt Athletics to send out custom workouts. The program is designed to help players get whatever training they need with or without equipment.
“Even better, all the coaches and myself can kind of see what the kids are doing,” Cooper said. “I’m not going to come down on kids right now if they’re not able to do a workout. It’s more of encouragement, ‘Hey we see you did three or four workouts this week.’ Try to give them props. We send a message to the kid or we’ve been trying to promote them on social media, on Twitter, as much as we can. Encouragement is going a long way right now in my opinion. Not just in sports, but in the world.”
Erie players, coaches, parents and community: We see you fighting together through this tough time. Our work continues, and we will come out stronger. #StVrainStorm #PlayForTheWorld @ErieHSAthletics @TigersPrincipal @ErieHighSchool pic.twitter.com/xPkOnQG2wp
— Erie High Football (@ErieTigersFB) April 10, 2020
Positivity, of course, isn’t always easy to identify in times of uncertainty. In sports, the microscopic giant’s path of destruction has left little room for it.
In college athletics, spring sports have been chopped. And around high schools in the state, there’s not much optimism of a return. The summer sports calendar is up for judgement next.
For high school football, the weeks and months following Memorial Day usually signal a time teams begin to prepare through the complex intricacies of the sport. With limited contact allowed, many coaches take part in 7-on-7 football, an all-passing, touch version of the game that helps players develop chemistry and learn tendencies with less risk for injury.
Official practice is expected to start in August — a few weeks prior to opening kickoff. Any and all delays that effect in-person practice could eventually lead to reworked timelines and discussions about player safety as it relates to adequate offseason preparation.
One step at a time, though.
“People need to concentrate on what’s going on in the next few weeks, or month,” Cooper said. “Then, we’ll figure out when it’s OK to play again.”