A big piece of Holy Trinity’s football success the last couple of seasons started in the summer with its 7-on-7 work and strength and conditioning program that kept the Pride’s relatively low numbers on the field.
Those pieces haven’t been there this summer, taken away like all of the other sanctioned high school sports activities statewide due to coronavirus concerns.
“Not having those opportunities puts everybody behind the eight ball,” Holy Trinity coach John Barber said. “Not just us.”
The impact of such non-football-related activity will certainly be seen in the way preseason football practices are conducted — if there are preseason practices at all — in the coming weeks.
“It could be months since kids did something rigorous,” Guilderland coach Dan Penna said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sometime next week will release guidelines pertaining to the fall sports season and, afterward, athletic decisions will have to be made at the state level as to a course of action. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has already called off regional and state competitions for all sports in the 2020 fall season.
While football coaches are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be a season, they are also hoping that their teams will be allowed to gather for some sort of sanctioned preparation like weight training or conditioning drills before actual practice kicks in on Sept. 21.
“That’s what I’m very nervous about,” Barber said. “If you only have 11 practices and are expected to play a game, you could have injuries and kids getting hurt. I’m thinking about the safety of kids. We use our summer program to acclimate them into football shape by building up strength, endurance and flexibility.”
Section II football coordinator Bob Dorrance said earlier this month that the tentative plan if football gets the go-ahead is to begin game play on the Oct. 2-3 weekend. That, of course, could be modified.
“We need at least a month with our kids,” Stillwater coach Ian Godfrey said. “It’s square one. You can’t expect a kid to go 11 days and then play an actual game.”
Player conditioning will likely take precedent at most camps before any games are played.
“We’re going to need to condition our kids,” Penna said. “We don’t know what they’ve done. Although we’ve encouraged them to be training on their own, we’ll go back to old-fashioned, basic conditioning.”
“You’re going to have those kids that come in ready to go, that see football in their future and make it a point to stay in great shape,” Barber said. “Then there is the average guy who plays high school football for the camaraderie and the experience, and maybe hasn’t put as much time in to prepare for the season.”
Ten practices are required before New York teams can play a game. An earlier start would give coaches more time to prepare their student-athletes for the rigors of play, and also give them time to prepare for whatever COVID-19 protocols that are mandated for official practices.
“To get the sport off the ground on the 21st, we would need a couple weeks to put a plan together,” Penna said. “It is extremely difficult to do any planning right now because there are a lot of questions and we don’t have the answers. We would have to get all of the details lined up. There would be a lot to coordinate.”
“I am curious about the protocols and what we’ll have to do,” Barber said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do. We have all of the stuff.”
Keeping it simple
In a normal year, most players would begin preseason camp with a good handle on their playbook. This year those playbooks will likely be modified to various degrees.
“In the past we’ve done team camps. Skill camps. Kids have had equipment on. Those are reps we don’t have if we open up on the 21st,” Penna said. “We would have to streamline our schemes. Cram in a lot of teaching. Stuff you do in 7-on-7 camps.”
“Week 1 is going to be basic for a lot of schools,” Barber said. “Three or four running plays. Three of four pass plays. Try to do a good job on special teams and hope for the best.”
“If you try to get cute and complicated, it’s going to fall apart,” Godfrey said.
What most teams likely won’t be doing because of time constraints is double practice sessions in the preseason, which is common in a normal school year when football workouts start before classes begin.
Teams could also see lower participation numbers because of coronavirus concerns.
“Some parents might not be comfortable having their kid participate in a contact sport,” Godfrey said.
Earlier this week, NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas released on his Twitter account the time frame that will take place following Gov. Cuomo’s announcement of his scholastic sports recommendations: Within 24 hours, section directors and NYSPHSAA officers will meet; within 48 hours, the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force will meet; within 72 hours, NYSPHSAA officers will make remaining decisions, if necessary.
“We are waiting for the governor to give us guidance,” Dorrance said. “We have no clear picture where we’re headed.”
The fall sports start date was originally Aug. 24 before the NYSPHSAA last month pushed it to Sept. 21.
“I do know one thing,” Penna said. “If we do get started, the energy will be greater than what you would have in August. Kids are so hungry to play.”