Dear Athletic Support: My grandson is currently meeting with his football coaches multiple times a week online. They study the playbook and watch film from last year’s games. Honestly, I’m flabbergasted over the amount of time they’re putting in. My grandson also works out at least five times a week. These are lonely workouts, to say the least, and I can’t help but be proud of his commitment. However, there is a fear bubbling up inside of me. I worry all the work my grandson (and his coaches) have done will be in vain. At this point, is there any way for us to know whether or not there will be football next season? — Gridiron Grandma.
Dear Gridiron: There is no way for me, or anyone else, to know the answer to this question, but I can offer you some thoughts.
Let me begin by saying, I don’t think COVID-19 is going anywhere anytime soon. This isn’t just a particular season of our life; in many ways, this is our new normal. Much of the talk at the beginning of the pandemic was about “flattening the curve.” In other words, government leaders took many precautions to try and slow the spread of the disease so hospitals wouldn’t be overrun.
Hopefully by the fall, we’ll be past the peak of COVID-19 and the curve will be flattened. That’s not to say the virus won’t still be around, but maybe a good portion of our country will have developed immunities by then, and as a result our lives will be able to return to some semblance of “normal.”
If this is the case, I could see high school football coming back into the picture this fall, albeit with a few changes. First off, crowds will be an issue. I’ve heard talk of having spectators sit six feet apart in the bleachers and only allowing parents to attend the games.
Another thing to consider is the lack of time teams will have to prepare before the season. I’d be willing to bet not all high school players are working as hard as your grandson is during this extended break. It will be hard for many young athletes to switch from “quarantine mode” to “football shape” as quickly as needed.
Each state has its own laws regarding “acclimation days.” These are the days that are required before a player can wear full pads and compete in tackle football. If those days are cut, there will be new safety concerns for the 2020 season, ones we’ve never even considered before.
In my opinion, the best-case scenario will be a delayed season, one where the players and the coaches are given the proper amount of time to prepare. There will most likely be crowd restrictions as well, and as a grandparent, this means you might not be able to sit in the stands for your grandson’s games. I would venture to guess, though, that most all games will be live-streamed, just as many meetings are happening online right now instead of face to face.
If high school football happens in the fall of 2020, it’s going to be different, it’s going to be weird — but it’ll be better than nothing.