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Coaches get green light to resume sports activities

RESERVE – After months of being stuck in neutral waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana’s coaches and athletic directors finally have a green light to move into first gear.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards allowed the state to move into Phase II of reopening beginning June 5. With that date circled on the calendar, most area coaches began planning for the resumption of sports activities on Monday – until Tropical Storm Cristobal formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico, anyway.

“We’re both excited and nervous,” said East St. John head football coach Brandon Brown of the new normal.  “You just don’t know how it’s going to go.”

Brandon Brown, ESJH

Riverside Academy coach Kevin Dizer said he’s prepping as he would for any opponent.

“As a coach, you go into it like you go into a game and you kind of know things are going to go wrong,” Dizer said. “But, you stay the course and stick to what we planned on doing and keep getting better as we go. Yes, it’s a pain, but that’s our job to do what we’ve got to do.”

It’s likely to be a learning experience for everyone.

Kevin Dizer. RA

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports, issued a lengthy list of guidelines for coaches to follow as they resume activities. Athletic contests, such as 7-on-7 drills and intra-squad scrimmages are still banned, so for the most part teams will only be working on conditioning.

The first task on the new checklist is temperature checks for all coaches and athletes before being allowed to participate. After that, athletes will only be able to work in groups of 25 or less, locker rooms are off-limits so they must come and leave dressed in practice gear. Everyone still must practice social distancing, equipment must not be shared and must be frequently sanitized.

“We have to jump through a lot a lot of hoops,” St. Charles Coach Frank Monica said. “We have been working on a plan that we’ve put in place.”

Comets athletes will be temperature checked while still in their cars, Monica said, before proceeding to the weight room in staggered groups.

“It’s a good plan, I think,” Monica said. “I don’t mind doing it as long as it gives kids a chance to work out with the weights. Our kids need to work out. We saw that on Book Day.”

Frank Monica, SCC

Brown said he had his staff go through some practice run throughs last week to be better prepared for when the athletes come to school.

“I think it’s going to be a smooth transition,” Brown said. “We’ll get better as we go.”

Meanwhile, West St. John coach Brandon Walters is giving things a little more time to settle down. He isn’t having his players report until later in June. The biggest issue for him is getting the athletes to and from practice on buses while practicing social distancing.

“It’s going to requires a lot more trips,” he said. “I’m glad to have things go back to some sense of normal. But there’s so many uncertainties about how we’re going to go about doing it that it’s somewhat crazy to deal with. There are so many rules and things in place, but you need them to make sure that everybody stays safe. We’ll have a lot more challenges.”

Brandon Walters, WSJH

While they might be a little nervous about this week, all of the area coaches expressed confidence that a football season will take place in the fall.

“I’m excited just knowing there’s a possibility that we will be able to line back up and get after it a little bit,” Brown said. “We really don’t know what it might look like so we’re just taking a wait and see approach. We just have to do the right things by our kids.”