SPOKANE, Wash. — On Monday, the WIAA released its COVID-19 guidelines for all fall sports.
There were eight sports that were included, but today we’re going to talk about football for two reasons:
- It’s the most popular sport in the fall.
- It’s also the highest risk sport.
We’re going to break this down by requirements in phases. Right now, we’re in phase two, so let’s start there.
PHASE TWO REQUIREMENTS
Yes, athletes can work out in phase two, but practicing football? Well, it won’t really look like football practice right now.
Participants are required to remain six feet away from each other and weight equipment and balls must be cleaned after every individual use.
This means quarterbacks can’t throw to their receivers or hand-off to their running backs. Offensive or defensive lines can’t practice together. Wide receivers can’t compete against cornerbacks. The list goes on and on.
Basically, if you’re a football team right now, you can condition. That’s it.
PHASE THREE REQUIREMENTS
It’s the same story in phase three, as players must maintain six feet apart.
However, there is one key thing: Balls only must be cleaned after practice, so that means that quarterbacks can throw to wide receivers.
Really though, that’s the only improvement. Phase three is still rough.
PHASE FOUR REQUIREMENTS
In phase four, teammates can be within six feet of each other practicing and playing. However, there are still some precautions.
Players on the sideline must remain three to six feet apart. This is going to be extremely problematic for coaches for several reasons, but the first one that jumps to mind is that substituting is going to be a real pain if a kid you need is on the other side of the field. Players can’t just follow a coach around anymore.
Also, teams are being asked to have time out huddles on the nine-yard line and attempt to social distance. Getting a message across to a team seems quite trying in this situation. But who knows, games might be very quiet, because with the way these guidelines look to me, fans may be extremely limited and bands may be completely out of the question.
The pre- and post-game handshake have also been eliminated, and teams are asked to only have one captain with a face mask on for the captain’s meeting.
So here are my takeaways on everything: It’s obvious that there is no way that Spokane-area teams will be playing football this year if the county can’t get to phase four. With cases climbing right now, we may be a long way off.
However, I do think that it’s much more likely to see high school football in the small towns around our area, but here’s the rub: With all these precautions taking place for a game where precautions can’t be instituted while the players actually play it, I have to wonder no matter the size of the school, is this safe and is this worth it?
That’s something for all of us to think about right now.