Football teams across Walker County returned to their practice fields and weight rooms back in June. Workouts were a little different, but players and coaches have worked to prepare for a season they didn’t know for sure would even take place until a couple days ago.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced on Thursday it had approved an on-time return to play plan. I’ve been cautious throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and I continue to wear my mask and social distance, but I was happy to hear that local athletes will at least get an opportunity to take the field.
I was surprised that the AHSAA did not put out a mandate on the number of fans that will be allowed in a stadium or gym, but that may be an issue to be better addressed by local boards of education.
All high school sports are important to our communities, but high school football is the king of those athletic events. It is one of the few events that brings citizens together in one accord. We can’t all agree on what church to support on Sunday mornings, but in Cordova everyone knows to worship some Blue Devils on Friday nights. It is the same way in Jasper, Dora, Sumiton, Carbon Hill, Oakman and Curry. We all show up to support our student athletes and band members. Even in a normal year, it is a way for us to forget the stresses of daily life and escape for a few hours. We need that escape more than ever in 2020.
Playing this season is also important to the athletes. For many players, an athletic scholarship might be their only ticket to college. Not every player has the elite level of talent to sign with a Southeastern Conference school, but there are many players in our area who can sign scholarships to smaller colleges. Most of those players make that happen in their senior year. There is a lot of physical and mental growth that happens between junior and senior years, and that growth often times translates to play on the field. A kid who wasn’t even on the radar a year ago may surprise us all and make just enough plays to catch a college’s eye.
There are certain dangers to playing football. This year, COVID-19 can be added to that list. I have a son playing for Jasper. They have been working out since June 1 with no player testing positive for the virus. The probability of players testing positive is there, and it will no doubt happen during the season, but the science has shown that age group isn’t particularly problematic when it comes to COVID-19.
I have seen first-hand precautionary measures that have been in place throughout workouts at Jasper. I have also heard what other schools are doing. No one is taking the coronavirus lightly. It is here, and it is going to be here a while. We have to do our best to continue to do things that lessen the spread. Fans need to be aware of that when they come to sporting events. Just because we are at a football game and it feels somewhat normal, we have to be vigilant to wear masks or distance ourselves from others.
2020 has been a terrible year. I can’t put it much plainer than that, but I am happy to see high school football is going to happen. Let’s hope we make it through the entire season with no large outbreaks. If we can do that, it will be a big win for us all.
James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.