Well, as the saying goes, something’s better than nothing.
For right now, that is basically the case as student-athletes have been able to start up again with conditioning programs this month, putting to the end of a nearly three-month layoff of high school athletes across the Mountain State due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission announced last month a three-phase plan to give student-athletes an opportunity to get back in shape as West Virginia begin returning from the COVID-19 lockdown. I spoke with Hurricane High School’s head football coach, Jeremy Taylor, about how he stayed in contact with his players during the down time.
“With social media, it really wasn’t that difficult,” Taylor said. “We had a couple of Zoom meetings with the players, parents and coaches to get some information out. But with technology the way it is, we didn’t lose touch.”
Taylor has had about 45 players come out for the hour-long conditioning training.
During the first part of the WVSSAC’s statewide comeback plan, which ended June 19, coaches were allowed to meet with players in groups of no more than 10 one-hour sessions outdoors. Everyone knows the new normal of being with others outside your family means social distancing, something Taylor was followed closely.
“Yeah, we are making sure they are in groups of 10, each player 6 feet apart. We check with each player before we start each conditioning session with everything the SSAC is requiring. The first day was a challenge, but we were able to settle in on a routine after that. It’s all good. Most of the time I was just walking around making sure the rules were being followed,” Taylor said.
Phase 2 of WVSSAC’s plan, which began this week, has groups of no more than 25 meeting with coaches for two hours per day. Meanwhile, Phase 3 of the plan includes the traditional three-week practice period, which for most counties, is set for July 6-25.
Taylor has been coaching young student-athletes for a number of years now, so he has had to handle a lot of different situations. For this current scenario, the veteran coach says, as is usually the case, the kids are adjusting the best they can.
“I think they are OK with it. I think most of them are just worried if there is even going to be a season, as it seems things change on a day-by-day basis. The ones that are dedicated are going to be there every day no matter what sport.”
Until the WVSSAC came out with the group’s conditioning guidelines, coaches were only guessing what was going to happen. Even though players are now able again to train as a team, that doesn’t mean Taylor is clear what is going to happen when it’s time for the season to begin. “You know, it’s a coin flip. With everything that is going on right now with the COVID-19 and social unrest, there are a lot of questions still to be answered. I don’t know how they (WVSSAC) are going to handle it; maybe they move the season to the spring, maybe shorten the season, there are just so many variables, your guess is as good as mine.”
I can’t imagine — and I don’t think anyone can — that games will be played this season without fans in the stands. Taylor told me that is another matter that isn’t clear to him or his team.
“I think if it gets to a point that they’re not going to let fans come, due to social distancing challenges, I don’t understand how they will allow football players be up in each other’s faces. Just something else we are just going to have to figure out, I guess.”
Here’s hoping that Friday night lights aren’t dimmer this coming season.