Start of football in District 225 means good, clean fun
High school football. It's not about July.
Particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Glenbrook North football coach Matt Purdy sees next week's return of football as the start of a long haul.
"I want to be talking on a Friday night after a football game in October. That's what I'm looking forward to," Purdy said Monday.
"It's great to have this conversation now, it's exciting, but really the focus should be on October."
Meanwhile, the Spartans and the Glenbrook South Titans will begin their summer football camps July 13 under the guidance of the Illinois High School Association's Phase 4 Return to Play Plan and, in a couple cases, the Illinois State Board of Education's more conservative "Starting the 2020-21 School Year" guide.
For Glenbrook South athletic director Steve Rockrohr, the overlying principle is a no-brainer.
"The heath and safety of the kids is always my No. 1 concern," he said.
Without reiterating the basics of pandemic athletics -- daily checks of athletes' temperatures and general conditions, social distancing, washing hands and equipment, etc. -- key points are:
• Groups of 50 are allowed, including all personnel, with potentially multiple groups of 50 provided each group is separated by 30 feet.
• Teams can use 20 contact days up to Aug. 9. Athletes can participate up to five hours a day.
On top of that, football programs are subject to summer acclimatization policy.
There are a couple variances between the IHSA and ISBE formats. When this happens, Rockrohr said, Glenbrook High School District 225 observes ISBE guidelines.
The ISBE has not approved physical contact between athletes. While the IHSA and ISBE both allow for groups of 50 indoors, in smaller spaces the district will go with 10 to follow ISBE's guideline to "allow for 6-foot distance between students as much as possible." All wearing masks.
This has required flexibility and creativity with areas such as Glenbrook South's fitness center and weight room. And they are needed.
"Our kids have done a lot of at-home workouts, but they haven't been in the weight room, haven't lifted a barbell," said Glenbrook South coach Dave Schoenwetter.
Despite the tighter ISBE restrictions, the increase to groups of 50 athletes outdoors from groups of 10 under Phase 3 enables the ability to practice football.
"I like the positive progress," said Tony Catsaros, Glenbrook South's head athletic trainer. "I like the planning, of course, the safety measures, how we can make it a good and safe experience, but I like the positive progress."
Purdy, who intends to practice from 8-10 a.m. Monday through Thursday and previously told his Spartans they'd have the first week of August off (the season officially starts Aug. 10), will concentrate on "the little things."
Attention to detail wins football games. During these contact days it also means players using their own water bottles, remaining 6 feet apart while stretching, wiping down equipment.
Blocking will be done on a sled. Offensive and defensive schemes and special teams drills will be conducted in small groups. Attention will be on conditioning, camaraderie, technique and "learning our sport," Purdy said.
"I don't want to be talking to someone three weeks from now, saying we made a mistake and now we have somebody sick," he said.
Schoenwetter plans about 4 hours of daily activities the first three weeks, with a fourth week to be determined.
It'll include an hour of speed and conditioning, an hour and a half of football activity and an hour of lifting. ISBE constraints may force lifting to be done in shifts.
Cleverly solving the no-contact problem in a quirky way, during offensive scheme introduction Schoenwetter said: "We'll use garbage cans, things like that, to represent the defensive fronts."
Preparing players for actual contact will be a challenge. COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges athletes have overcome.
"Whatever's thrown at us we're going to work within those parameters and work as hard as we can. That's just the way we've been trying to teach our kids about dealing with adversity," Schoenwetter said.
It will hopefully be a long process. No backsliding allowed
"We've got to be safe," Purdy said, "we've got to be smart and we've got to be about playing in the fall. We can't be about July 6."