Back in late July, the California Scholastic Federation (CIF) announced that Fall high school sports would begin in either December or January. According to local Silicon Valley area coaches, those starting dates are still on track. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that in Santa Clara County, teams are still only allowed to workout together with strict social distancing protocols.
“The guidance given to our school is no footballs, no weights, bags, or other equipment. Strict social distancing, no one on one drills of any kind,” noted Fremont Head Coach Rob Swartz. “Twelve person cohorts assigned to one coach, so no different than the guidelines from the summer.”
Without being able to do handoffs, block nor tackle, local schools remain strictly limited in what they can get done as a team. The problem is that these protocols are not universal. Schools in the Sacramento area have actually been allowed to conduct football activities according to Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa.
“Some areas are already doing [actual football stuff], it’s just our area is not allowing it. The Sacramento area hardly has any restrictions as far as that stuff. They are able to do pretty much everything, they are actually going back to school next week.”
After having been shut down completely by the county for the month of August, schools within Santa Clara County have been given the go ahead to workout outside. The Chargers have moved their weight room out onto the baseball field. While weightlifting as a team is not nothing, the teams are eager to be able to do more to prepare for the season. As things currently stand, there is little idea of when schools will be given the green light to practice the kind of football drills necessary to truly prepare for the physical nature of the sport.
None of the local coaches are overlooking the health and safety regarding COVID-19, but there is likewise a valid concern for the safety when it comes to football-related injuries. Both Rosa and Santa Clara Bruins Head Coach Burt Codera expressed concern over an increase in football specific injuries if the teams aren’t given adequate time to get their squad’s up to speed.
“I’ve talked to other coaches around the area and we all kind of agreed that we need a bare minimum of two months, eight full weeks to get the kids ready with actual tackling and blocking,” remarked coach Codera. “We don’t need to be in pads the whole two months, but the month of November we have to be hands on, we have to be full go for four-to-five days a week to get their bodies ready.
“We’ve missed out on four or five months of lifting as a team, and you know what four or five months of lifting does for a 15 or 16-year-old kid, their bodies grow exponentially. The fact that they are gonna limit our practices, you are talking about some dangerous, dangerous stuff,” continued Codera. “There were a ton of major injuries in the NFL yesterday. I said this from the start, if we have to limit our weightlifting in the offseason and limit our practice time and only give us the month of December to get them ready to play this game, we are talking about a dangerous formula there.”
Coach Rosa expressed similar concern over potential injuries, and went a step further acknowledging the lack of athletic camaraderie and socialization on campus has been a struggle for the students from a mental health perspective.
“I don’t think they’re doing well at all actually,” admitted coach Rosa. “I think they need regular social stuff. It’s been a long time now. Some of these kids are going out on their own and playing seven on seven games against other schools. It would be better if they allowed us [coaches] to have them and at least they would be safe.”
Fremont senior quarterback Ryan Kowal acknowledged that senior year has been a struggle for him thus far with distance learning and no football.
“At first, I thought online school would be somewhat easy, but it can be quite difficult and at times frustrating,” noted the senior. “The amount of different links just to get to one assignment is terrible. I thought my senior year was going to be fun and exciting, but it’s gone the complete opposition direction.
“I can’t really see any of my friends, it’s just weird. No one ever thought the virus would get this bad and last this long, so everyone is trying to make school, sports and activities seem ‘normal’” continued Kowal. “Now football on the other hand, it’s very weird. I’m the quarterback and I can’t even throw the football. I’m doing my part and trying to wear a mask at all times and it just makes me think ‘how did we get here? Will this ever be back to normal?’ Just a lot of questions have been running through my head. All we can hope is that football is 100 percent going to happen at some point.”
These student athletes are having to get used to all these uncertainties at an age where they should be enjoying themselves and their routines. High school seniors do not have the opportunity to get their senior years back.
“It’s been kinda weird because usually by this time we’re already practicing and playing games,” said Wilcox tight end and linebacker Bryan Escorza. “To not have football and still go to school online is a new experience we are having to get used to. Hopefully, everything goes well with COVID and things start to get better so we can do more football things as far as preparing for the season. There’s still enough time to prepare, I just hope the season doesn’t get cancelled.”