So many times, friends and family have asked me, “How do you practice football staying 6 feet apart?”
Well, the answer is simple: You really don’t.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic still running rampant and extra pressure put on people to maintain restrictions in the hopes of having a full season this year, it’s been truly impressive how coaches in the tri-county area are making do.
When it was announced summer workouts could resume for AHSAA teams, it came with a set of lengthy restrictions — prescreening athletes, maintaining social distancing protocols, wearing masks when necessary and more. However, AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese also said there would be no sanctions handed down by the association for not following these “best practices.”
It would’ve been easy for teams around the state to not follow them — and I’m certain there are. I’ve heard stories about it being “business as usual” for some teams, but I’ve attended a handful of summer workouts so far and I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how teams in the area have adjusted.
As Benjamin Russell football coach Kevin Smith said, “Kids will be kids.” You can tell a high school boy, especially one who hasn’t seen his friends and teammates for weeks on end, to stay 6 feet away from one another. But kids will be kids, and sometimes they forget; it’s not exactly a normal procedure, especially for football players who are used to chest bumping and hitting helmets and jumping around together in huddles.
However, coaches have continued to stay on their players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Get farther apart,” or just simply, “Six feet!” these past two weeks. An assistant coach at Reeltown even joked he was a member of the “social distancing police.”
Horseshoe Bend has taken it a step further as the Generals were wearing masks while doing intense weight-room workouts. In an already non-air conditioned weight room, I can’t even imagine the rigor those guys are putting themselves through.
Tallassee coach Mike Battles tweeted he’d have masks and hand sanitizer available for all players; Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore, among others, have ensured players are in smaller groups whenever possible. Central Coosa and Dadeville are both hosting optional workouts twice a day.
Whatever extent the local coaches need to take, they were willing to do just that and I give them a ton of kudos. Without an AHSAA sanction hovering over them, they could’ve taken the easy route and just gone about their business as usual.
But every coach we’ve spoken to these past few weeks has stressed the importance of the safety and health of their student-athletes; they’re making sure those things are priorities — no matter how challenging or different it has been to do.
Even with case numbers continuing to spike every day, coaches and players taking these extra precautions will ultimately show they’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the greatest likelihood of a football season beginning in August.