The 2020 season was going to look very different for the DeForest prep football team even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States due to a coaching change, conference realignment and a new field turf on Stalder Field. The pandemic has brought about even more change, possibly even when the season is played.
“This whole situation had been tough, especially with the transition of a new coach,” new Norski coach Aaron Mack said. “The thing that has been very good is that the kids and parents have been patient. Everybody is obviously frustrated, but they have been understanding.”
Due to the pandemic, the WIAA has created a new plan that allows for schools to decide between going ahead with fall sports or moving them to the spring.
The Badger Conference canceled all conference competitions and championships this fall, but schools are allowed to schedule their own games.
There has been no final decision on what direction DeForest will take with fall sports, like football, but likely will push it off until spring.
“We are leaning toward a move to the spring,” Mack said. “We still want to explore all the options we have. No matter what, we would like to offer something this fall. Because there are not many teams that will be playing this fall in Dane County, there are not a lot of choices for us for games. If we don’t play games, we have talked about holding some team workouts this fall. Right now, we just don’t know what anything is going to look like.”
Being a new coach, Mack is still getting to know his staff and players. Most of their first meetings have taken place virtually.
“Right when I was hired, when things started to get shut down, I had a lot of good meetings with our upperclassman on Zoom,” Mack said. “It was a chance for all of us to get to know each other. We had a very open dialogue about the things they like about the program and things we need to improve on. After about Memorial Day, the kids started to get drained from zoom meetings and we stopped. Then I shifted my focus to the staff and meeting with all of them.”
The Norskies were able to do some outdoor workouts in mid-July.
“We got a chance to see them face to face, but we followed all guidelines,” Mack said. “It was nice as a new coach to get in front of the kids. We didn’t work on anything football specific, but it was nice to be together.”
Mack had a chance to stop by Stalder Field recently and see the progress of the field turf project.
“It looks absolutely beautiful,” Mack said. “The stadium was remarkable before the turf and now the whole ambiance is second to none in the state.”
Even if there are no football games on the new turf this fall, Mack says there me be some opportunities for players and community members to check out the new look.
“We have talked about doing some sort of event, of course using social distancing, where we could bring in a big screen and show the state championship game,” Mack said. “We want to offer something to juice up the excitement.”
Once the season does take place, Mack says practices will look different.
“I think it will be a lot more NFL-like practices with walk throughs and more teaching on the field,” Mack said. “We probably limit contact between the kids. You have to be smart, so you have players able to go on Friday. We are probably going to do more classroom and video work than before. You will have to use every way you can to teach the kids. But at some point and time, you are going to have to turn it lose and have practices to get kids ready to play football.”
Even with all the craziness surrounding the possible season, Mack expects the Norskies’ strong tradition to continue.
“It will be player and community focused program with a blue collar attitude,” Mack said. “The community will be proud to come out and support us when we get out of this. Hopefully it will make us better as a program and a community.”