High school football seasons normally begin with two-a-day practices, meetings and other training sessions in preparation for the first game of the season in mid-August.
Yet, the coronavirus pandemic has forced those plans to change as the Badger Conference, Rock Valley Conference and other circuits in Wisconsin have cancelled fall 2020 sports.
Head football coach Brandon Beckwith at Monona Grove High School, which is part of the Badger Conference, said postponement of fall sports is a bitter pill to swallow, but his coaches and players will have to learn to adjust. He said playing football on the mid-August through early October schedule could not be done with the virus still spreading.
“I talked with other Dane County coaches in the area, talked with administrators to try to figure out ways to get it done,” Beckwith said. “The guidelines in place in Dane County probably would’ve been a nightmare and not a fun experience for the kids and coaches. It would’ve been tough to play while making sure everyone was safe.”
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) is expected to decide Aug. 14 on a proposed football schedule that would be played in spring 2021. Beckwith said that should be encouraging for football players itching to get back on the playing field.
“(A spring football season) re-energizes that hope when your season gets cancelled in the fall and there is still hope for sliding in that extra spring season,” Beckwith said.
He added that he will encourage his players to be patient and be safe and keep their bodies mentally and physically healthy.
Classes at Monona Grove and other schools throughout Dane County will begin virtually with students participating in classes via computer. Beckwith said if he can get permission, he will eventually start to incorporate training with small groups.
“We can use groups of 10 in outdoor training, probably after the normal school day, just to try to get some face-to-face contract back,” he said.
Until then, Beckwith said he will remain in contact with players and coaches through Zoom sessions. He plans to arrange a virtual meeting with the senior players. Members of the roster must accept that this will be the only method of communication until the dangers involving COVID-19 have passed.
“I’m sick of the Zooms and virtual conversations. They’re sick of it even though you would think this generation would like that. But they just want to get out and run around,” Beckwith said. “We miss seeing each other. Somehow, we have to incorporate those pieces and do it in a safe way by social distancing and putting on a mask. It’s not something you want to do, but it can be done. We have to make sacrifices. This is just a small piece and we have to do our part.”
In the meantime, Beckwith looks forward to a possible spring football season and how his athletes that also play winter sports will adjust to the change. He said players who are fresh off participating in basketball, hockey or wrestling may have a greater amount of competitive fire when football begins again.
“It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be an exciting different,” Beckwith said.