JASPER - As teams across the Daily Mountain Eagle coverage area are making their return to the practice field in preparation for the 2020 football season, an emphasis on safety has also taken center stage to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
To ensure the players were properly equipped for a return to summer practice, a collaboration between Scott Crump Toyota, GoTees Screen Printing and the Daily Mountain Eagle teamed-up to provide a new face covering for the Jasper Vikings — complete with the team’s logo — for not only the players, but for the coaches and staff as well.
Crump said after speaking with James Phillips, DME Publisher and member of the Jasper Viking QB leadership team on the new requirements set forth by the AHSAA involving the prevention of the COVID-19 spread, the opportunity to assist with securing proper facial protection was one he couldn’t pass up.
“We all know that when it comes to schools, there’s never enough money to go around for every department. With these kids, it’s up to us as parents and members of the community to make sure they have everything they need to stay safe and healthy,” Crump said. “If there’s a time where I can support our local school system and community, I do it. It’s never the kids fault that funding for equipment isn’t there, so I feel like we need to do what we can as a community if we want to enjoy watching our players on Friday nights.”
Phillips said serving the needs of the student athletes was paramount in the endeavor to equip the players.
“During a parent meeting, Coach Philip Bailey said all players would need masks. Unfortunately, all players cannot afford masks and just general masks are not conducive to athletics. These face gaiters are perfect for what the team needed,” Phillips said. “I got on the phone with Shawn Doss at GoTees to get a good deal on the masks and printing and Scott Crump was super fast to say he would sponsor them. It was a community effort by people who care about our young people. That’s what supporting student athletes is all about.”
The Viking players have had the chance to use their new gaiters with summer practice and preseason conditioning underway. Two of the teams’ seniors, Andre Neal and Connor Whitley say the coverings are a big hit among the players, who are also appreciative of the effort everyone involved made to get the equipment.
“It was difficult to get adjusted to at first, but most of us have adapted to it very well,” Whitley said. “It’s like wearing your helmet or cleats, it’s become natural.”
“It took about a week for me to get used to having the mask on as I just came back a week ago, but now it’s just as unnoticeable as wearing any other piece of clothing,” Neal added.
Bailey stated his appreciation for the group’s work in obtaining the gaiters, which is a significant improvement over the surgical masks players were wearing in the early days of summer practice.
“The surgical masks were breaking and guys were getting sores where the mask cords were rubbing their ears raw. Now these gaiters just easily slide around the face and lets us get our work done in a better way,” Bailey said. “We’re just thankful to Scott — whose business has an outstanding pillar of our community for years — as well as James and the folks as GoTees for everything they’ve done. It’s had a positive impact.”
For more of the Daily Mountain Eagle's coverage of the Jasper Vikings, click here.