As a result of COVID safety regulations the high school football season, which traditionally occurs in the fall, was forced into the spring during the 2020-2021 school year. Despite these changes, there is hope for a strong season.
Impending COVID regulations made it challenging for the football players to gather as a team in the offseason. However, the players took it personally and made it their responsibility to make sure they were physically prepared when the time came.
¨The best way for our players to prepare for the football season is by staying active in other sports. I was really proud of how many guys were out for wrestling and basketball. The leaders of Fort Atkinson High School athletics have great offseasons by being in season for other sports,¨ says head varsity coach Nick Nelson. On top of participating in multiple sports, team leaders organized their own practices and workouts over the summer to prepare. This allowed for stronger relations between the athletes, and the beginning of processing a foundation of skills to prepare them for the season.
Although the 2021 football season will consist of only five games, one of which is at home, the team will still be building a consistent game day routine. “The games will be a bit different in that players will be wearing masks. We will have to maintain our social distance on the sideline as best we can,” says Nelson. Other than these changes, however, the team will still be allowed to have contact through blocking and tackling during games, leaving the game relatively unchanged from previous years.
Along with a change in the game schedule, the number of fans will be regulated this season to ensure covid safety procedures are being followed. Normally, football games generate a large crowd with lots of energy and enthusiasm. However, this season the fans will be limited to family members of the players. Senior, Jay Rueth, responds to this change saying, “It will be very different than previous years, and although it is disappointing, we will have to generate our own energy and play like there is a full crowd watching us every game.”
This altercation doesn’t just affect the players, but the student body of all Fort Atkinson schools. The football environment is one like no other, and it brings people of all ages together through the many excitements that occur during games. Some of these excitements can be seen in the student section, where students drape themselves in loud, obnoxious clothing, or just outside the gates, where future Blackhawks play football or cheer for their older siblings and inspirations. Without a sliver of doubt, the “no fans” regulation is one that takes a toll on athletes and fans. The ability to have fans present at sporting events once again is an event that is being primarily desired for next year’s sports seasons.
Even though the coronavirus changed the structure of the season and game procedures, a strong offseason and positive attitudes bring hope for success.