Who knows what’s coming? The COVID-19 pandemic has coaches and players both searching for any grasp of what’s to come.
The season has been pushed back two weeks to give teams more time to get in shape after spring football and half of the summer workouts were wiped away due to the pandemic.
In nearly two months since summer workouts began there have been 655 positive COVID-19 tests reported to the Georgia High School Association. Six teams have had to suspend their workouts due to positive tests in the last week.
It’s a reality. Coaches know that the inevitable is going to happen and it’s going to change the way the season is played.
“There’s going to be positive tests because we’re dealing with a whole group of kids that haven’t been tested to this point,” Oconee County High School head coach Travis Noland said. “The question is whether they’re going to let us work through those things as things continue to progress.”
Football coaches feel there is an opportunity for the sport to get things right and lead the way for the rest of the high school sports world. The leadership of the football programs doesn’t end with being able to complete a season without major outbreaks within programs. The leadership spills over into the schools.
North Oconee High School head coach Tyler Aurandt imagines his team leading the charge in the building being the students that are wearing their masks and doing the right things on the weekends and after school.
“It starts with our staff to be the positive influence that they need to be,” Aurandt said.
“We want to be the group that leads that charge. When we get back to school and people see that the football team has masks on because we’re looked at differently. If we can be the group that’s leading that charge because we know how important it is then I think it will have that much more influence.”
Players, specifically the seniors feel the responsibility they have to their younger teammates.
No longer is being a senior just about making sure younger players know how to do the drill and bring the right amount of intensity to the field.
The elder statesmen of football programs have their futures on the line. If the season comes to a premature end, there are many that will never play the sport again.
That possibility has been a key component in motivating seniors to do their part in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, but also giving their teammates reminders of how things are going to be done during the pandemic.
“Our senior class has been together since middle school,” NOHS senior Jack Butler said. “We all want to play together one more year. Whether it’s wearing a mask in the weight room or not having so many people go out at the same time. We’re just all doing our part to make sure that we do have football season.”
Team goals have their place. They have to take a backburner for now. As seen around the state and in Major League Baseball, the next day of practice or games aren’t promised.
“The importance of the game is very glaring for a kid, but its only important if you can keep the kid safe,” Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander said. “It’s not about winning a state championship. Our goal is for everyone to come back tomorrow.”