Loss of team bonding concerns high school football coaches, players
The last time Paul Parpet Sr. didn't coach summer football a historic event shook the nation.
He was fresh out of college in 1974 when President Richard Nixon resigned.
It's taken another historic event to sideline Illinois high school football this summer.
Along with canceling the state tournament series in spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on April 21 the Illinois High School Association also suspended 2020 summer contact days "unless state government and medical leaders indicate such gatherings are safe."
If so, the IHSA will revisit contact days, a policy first enacted in 2000 that allows coaches and athletes to meet during summer vacation.
Parpet, in his 36th year as a head coach at Lisle and Addison Trail, will miss it. Not for competitive reasons.
"The summer is the time to build the relationships with your players. That's what I'm going to miss. I'm going to miss being there with the kids for those two hours, four days a week," he said.
"But to run the trap or to put in a pass play or a coverage, I think my coaches are good enough to do that in a two-week period (in August). We won't need 25 days to do that."
Antioch coach Brian Glashagel agrees.
He'd scheduled two June 7-on-7 competitions and counted on installing his base offense and defense by July as usual. But his main concern is losing team-building, like the Sequoits' paintball day.
Bonding trumps X's and O's at the popular team summer camps, such as Prospect's at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"That's not going to be an option this year and that's going to be the first time we haven't done a team camp in the five years since I've been the head coach," said Prospect coach Dan DeBoeuf.
Glashagel noted the inherent bonding group conditioning provides -- but also, "what have the kids been doing?"
Athletes self-condition on a range of slightly to all-in. (Ask someone who played before summer contact days.)
Glenbard South football coach Ryan Crissey predicts a tricky balancing act during what he foresees as a period of "super-acclimatization."
"I think the biggest impact is going to be getting kids physically prepared," said Crissey, who hopes teams can assemble in July. "The mental capacity goes out the ears if they're physically gassed, if they're not ready to physically play. We're going to be toeing a fine line trying to figure out how much we should push, how much we shouldn't push."
In a perfect world coaches wouldn't need to push too hard. Players would follow workouts sent via Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Google and Flipgrid since schools closed in March. They would study plays and schemes on Hudl.
"With the technology we have, we can communicate but it's tough not being able to get together on the field," said Naperville Central quarterback Sam Jackson, committed to Minnesota.
"We're a pretty young team so we need a decent amount of time to get ready. The guys are very excited to get together again."
Another of Illinois' top seniors, St. Viator lineman Jeremiah Pittman -- in Zoom meetings four times a week for football alone -- thinks players will come back "hungrier."
He thinks there will be a visible, "stark difference" between those who trained and those who did not.
"You're going to know who really wants to play football, depending on who hits the ground running and who hasn't been lifting for two months," Pittman said.
Planning it out
There are anomalies.
Last season Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh used only 16 days for football activities, down from 23 in 2018.
He'd planned to use 16 again this season, though players are expected to participate in the strength and conditioning camp open to all Hawks athletes.
"I think the biggest thing I saw was just how hungry the guys were, how excited they were for the season to start. When that first day in August hit everyone was ready to go," Erlenbaugh said.
One might expect slight panic from Tom Baumgartner, in his first season as Waubonsie Valley's head coach.
Nope. As a 15-year assistant to the retiring Paul Murphy, Baumgartner and his veteran staff has "already constructed multiple plans for whatever the situation may be," he said.
Team bonding? Handled by an upcoming "Madden NFL" video game tournament.
"If we end up not having the 25 contact days we'll certainly follow whatever the IHSA puts in place," Baumgartner said.
"I think they have a good idea of what's best for the kids, and then we'll just get creative."
St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak saw the suspension of contact days coming.
He's in "figure it out" mode depending on what comes down the pike, but recently told his players his four-month plan on Google Meet.
If it only comes down to preseason practice he's ready for that, too. If.
"I'm hoping that we get August," Pomazak said. "At this particular point, you just don't know."
Daily Herald sports writers Joe Aguilar, Jerry Fitzpatrick and Kevin Schmit contributed to this story.