Friday Night Lights, College Football Saturday, & NFL Sunday; for football diehards, the calendar flipping to August usually marks the beginning of a fall sports season chock full of football every weekend.
Unfortunately, with the United States’ inability to effectively control the spread of COVID-19, high school sports in California will not start on time. On July 20, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced that fall sports will be pushed back to December. The Federation simultaneously announced that teams conducting summer practices were to immediately cease operations.
The trio of local public high schools — Fremont, Santa Clara and Wilcox — had all been conducting some form of summer practices starting in late June. While Wilcox and Santa Clara were able to use footballs, Sunnyvale’s school district did not allow for Fremont to play catch with footballs, extremely limiting their ability to conduct anything close to normal summer practice. All of the schools were prohibited from practicing handoffs, as to adhere to six-feet social distancing protocols put in place by Santa Clara County.
For the majority of the players, participating in the summer practices, being able to be outside working together as a team was a welcome change from the strict shelter in place orders that were in place as last school year ended.
“It feels really good just to get outside,” acknowledged Fremont guard Carlos Rocha. “Quarantine started in March, we didn’t get out here until the end of June. We were stuck for a couple months, doing the same workouts at home, pushups, sit-ups, it gets old. You don’t feel the same energy as you would being out here running and lifting weights.”
“Coming out here we at least get to do some of the football exercises,” added Fremont quarterback Ryan Kowal. “We can’t throw the football, which is hard, nor can we get near each other so it’s kind of hard to work on our footwork.”
“It definitely felt good,” noted Wilcox tight end and linebacker Bryan Escorza on practicing again. “I was really happy to be back out there.”
“Getting back on the field is such a relief,” said Santa Clara quarterback Aiden Rangle. “It was a little weird having to be social distanced the whole time, but I think everyone enjoyed being back together as a team.”
Rangle went on to acknowledge that there was a shared hesitation among Bruins teammates about getting together at all for practices. None of the practices were mandatory, though, and no players for either of the schools were docked for choosing not to participate.
“I think it’s good for us to maintain team continuity, kids get out of the house and break a sweat and see each other, good for the kids to have something to do in the afternoon,” remarked Fremont Head Coach Rob Swartz before adding, “there were a number of players whose parents had concerns about them being here and I said ‘don’t worry about it, that’s not an issue. If you feel like your family’s situation dictates that you’re not going to make it for the summer, that’s fine with me. This is not a mandatory thing.’”
For all the head coaches, these next few months will be unchartered territory. They have extra time to prepare for the season by watching film, but they won’t be able to conduct any form of practice in the immediate future. According to the CIF, the hope is that summer style practices will be able to return sometime in October.
“At least we have a date on the calendar so, as a coach, we can kind of plan backwards from there,” noted Bruins Head Coach Burt Codera on the projected December start time for the season. “[Stopping now], though, is tough because we just spent a month getting the kids in shape and I thought it was a really productive month and now we are going to sit idle for who knows how long? It’s just weird not being in control of your program, because usually year-round you are interacting with your guys and you always have a goal to work towards, but right now it’s just nothing. It’s a unique situation.”
Even though the stoppage of practices isn’t ideal, the summer workouts were a welcomed change of scenery and a boost for mental health.
“When we opened these practices up, we had 120 kids sign up,” noted Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa. “Parents wanted them out of the house and exercising because they hadn’t been doing anything for months. The physical health, but the mental health too, the social environment, there are a ton of positives to sports without even talking about the sport.”
As for the actual sports side of football, the delayed season will have a direct effect on college recruitment. Players hoping to put a strong senior year on tape for purposes of earning potential scholarships will face a more challenging recruitment season.
“One of the bigger problems with having the season so late is college,” noted Fremont offensive and defensive tackle Nico Massey. “The recruiting process will be tough with having to apply to colleges early in the school year, we will be applying to schools before even playing this year.”
Without playing the normal fall schedule, high school athletes will have to attempt to keep up with workout routines mostly on their own. Although Coach Swartz did mention he and his staff will try and keep in touch with the kids over Zoom.
“I want to get a once per week Zoom meeting with the team going so we can touch bases with everybody and keep them up to date with what’s happening and just keep them in the loop,” noted the Firebirds’ head honcho. “It’s gonna be tough to maintain continuity, and the kids can get a little disenchanted with what is happening. So, we are going to try to do that online as much as we can.”
Online work will be the only mode of interaction for teams until the next announcement from the CIF. As it stands now, the schedule for CCS sports has full tilt football practices beginning on Dec. 14. The first games of the season are currently slated for Jan. 8.