Football During a Pandemic

Coaches and players are adapting to new health protocols, due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives in some way, shape, or form over the past several months. The game of football is no exception. For many Americans, football is a love language. It not only dominates conversations, consumerism, and lazy Sunday afternoons, but it also provides a fantastic escape from the constant cycle of daily life. However, the ever changing monster that is COVID-19, has been the source of much controversy, countless delays, and the implementation of new rules and health protocols, such as controlled practice pods, effective social distancing, and pre-participation health screenings. 

Situations are unique all across the board depending on location, conference, and level of play, but Minnehaha Academy Athletic Director, Josh Thurow, is pleased with the current outlook of high school football in Minnesota. 

“We will proceed with all the best intentions and practice protocols that keep us safe,” said Thurow.

Along with having to follow a new set of health rules, the football season has been shortened to a six week regular season. Furthermore, athletes will have to adjust to a limited fan presence.

“Games will only be able to allow 250 fans,” said Thurow, meaning that the average student fan can’t attend.

A similar situation is happening at division three programs throughout the country, where play is even more restricted due to specific conditions. St. Olaf tight ends’ coach and 11’ graduate, Matt Paulson, gave some insight into how division three football programs are dealing with the pandemic.

“They cancelled the season across the country for division three, which had to do a lot with the cost of testing and funding in general,” said Paulson.

In response to this, schools are extending all seniors a blanket waiver that allows them an extra year of eligibility the following season. 

“It’s interesting because there’s no scholarship money involved, so you have to think about how it affects your graduation timing and if you can afford it,” said Paulson, who is adjusting to the change of meeting players virtually and coaching them in position specific pods.

“What we do is we put five offensive position players and five defensive position players in a group, so they can practice against each other,” Paulson said.

Similar measures are being taken at the high school level, where the SMB Wolfpack will be chasing a second state title. For many players this unprecedented fall season is an opportunity to attract offers and end their high school football career on a high note.

Senior free safety, Toby Jacobson highlighted the ways football has shaped him: “Over the past four years football has motivated me to get stronger and helped me develop my leadership and social skills.” 

Whether it’s at the high school or college level it’s comfortingly familiar for students and athletes to have football back in its traditional fall season, despite the minimal spectator presence and new health protocols.

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About Owen Hoffner

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