The first slight ray of hope for a possible ‘normal’ football season arrived Monday evening.
It came via a memo from Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine to member principals, athletic directors, superintendents and head coaches stating plans to allow for the start of football practice August 3 – the first permissible date for football practice on the LHSAA’s calendar.
“They (the LHSAA) really want athletics to happen, and I think this is a way to try and make sure that we’re still thinking that football has a chance if we can get our state together and get a chance to move forward,” Springfield principal Spencer Harris, a member of the LHSAA’s Executive Committee, said. “As I read it, to me, that’s the message that (the) LHSAA’s sending is that we want to play sports. We want sports for our kids, so we want to move forward.”
While it’s a trend in a positive direction, fans might not want to get overly excited just yet as the memo also notes schools and school systems may choose not to start football practices August 3.
“We got the memo, and we haven’t had time to digest it,” Livingston Parish Public Schools athletic director Steve Parrill said late Monday evening. “I texted with (LPPS Superintendent) Mr. (Joe) Murphy, and we’re going to have to sit down tomorrow (Tuesday) and digest what it says. We do have a few days because we still have some days left in July. We just have to read it. They put some pretty specific things that they would be able to do for football. We’re just going to have to look at it and compare it to the Phase 2 guidelines. Our coaches worked really hard to conduct themselves responsibly, and they want to do what’s best for their kids – balance in safety and also competition, so it’s not something we need to rush into.”
Harris reiterated that discussions will be held Tuesday regarding football in Livingston Parish.
“Mr. Parrill … I’m sure he’s going to reach out to other athletic directors and other principals to get guidance, but Mr. Murphy and Mr. Parrill, ultimately, are going to kind of decide if we’re able to do that (begin football practice on Aug. 3) as a parish,” Harris said.
The memo also states that until the state moves into Phase 3 of reopening and establishes a ‘positive trend’ in relation to the novel coronavirus, ‘the start of the regular football season, including but not limited to full contact, scrimmages, jamborees and eventually the beginning of interscholastic competitions will inevitably be adjusted.’
The state is in Phase 2 of reopening until Aug. 7, and the LHSAA’s summer rules end Aug. 10.
“It just doesn’t seem like school’s about to start,” Harris said. “The summer rules are ending, so I think that they needed to address and make sure that schools understand that the summer rules that are in place would be ending, so they wanted to give some guidance moving forward.”
Guidelines set forth in the memo would allow for the use of helmets, hand shields and pop up dummies; ball handling exchange drills; 7-on-7 intrasquad drills with no contact and static groupings of 25 students (indoors and outdoors) beginning Aug. 3. Shoulder pads can be added on Aug. 6.
“We’re going to have to make sure that we continue to do all the safety precautions that we’ve been doing,” Harris said. “Cleaning the equipment – if we’re able to use hand shields and bags, at the end of the workout, they need to be cleaned … so that next time (the next use), they’re sanitized.”
Harris is cautiously optimistic regarding football season.
“At the end of the day, I feel confident in saying that I think the LHSAA is wanting to try to do everything it can to try to allow our young student-athletes the chance to play, and I think they want to keep us moving in that direction because I think that’s the goal of everyone in that is to be able to play. I’m hopeful that we can. I’m also worried that if the numbers don’t change in our state, then we’re not going to be able to, so it’s a Catch-22.”