This is an opinion piece.
I’ve said it almost in jest a couple of times in the last few weeks.
But, with the spike on COVID-19 cases happening just as the 2021 high school football season – and athletic season in general – begins, it may be accurate.
“Here we go again.”
The football season officially kicks off Thursday night.
Already there have been a pair of COVID cancellations for Week 1.
Opp’s game with Geneva was canceled due to COVID concerns in the Geneva program. Goshen’s game with Holtville was canceled due to the same concerns at Goshen.
The trend with the new delta variant definitely has some coaches worried.
“It’s more aggressive, especially with young kids,” Theodore football coach Eric Collier said. “Last year, there were a few cases with student-athletes, but it definitely seems more prevalent this year. It seems to me it is attacking young kids more. We are doing the same things here at Theodore that we did last year, but I’ll be honest with you – It’s been a major struggle. It really has.”
Elberta coach Nathan McDaniel said COVID-19 is always in the back of his mind.
“We haven’t had too many cases yet,” he said. “We take a lot of extra precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen here. Our kids are pretty chill away from school. They don’t go out a ton. They’ve done a good job of staying home and staying secluded and not risking exposure. But, obviously, it’s still a concern and something we have to be mindful about.”
New AHSAA executive director Alvin Briggs pointed out at the Kickoff Classic Media Event in Montgomery on Tuesday that Alabama was the only state to start high school sports on time in 2019 and the only one to crown a champ in every sport. Few thought either of those things could happen last summer.
He’s hopeful the results will be the same this year.
“It’s always a concern,” Briggs said of the pandemic. “We just need our schools to continue to do what they did last fall and do all the things that are recommended by the state department of health and Dr. (Scott) Harris. We made it through once. We can do it again. We just have to be careful and do the things we need to do, but it’s always a concern.”
Briggs complimented the way the AHSAA schools handled the pandemic during the 2020-2021 school year and said he believes the communities will step up to help mitigate the spread of COVID once again.
“I believe our communities will do everything they can so our kids will be able to continue to play the sports they love,” he said. “Is the virus real? Yes. Do we know all the answers? No. But, when it comes to our extracurricular activities, I believe our communities will step up and be vigilant about helping our kids play.
“If we can do what we did last fall and last spring, we can beat this. I consider myself at high risk. I have some underlying conditions. I do everything I can to protect myself, and we want everyone else to do the same.”
BRIGGS ON OTHER KEY TOPICS:
On the seemingly high number of student athletes transferring schools this summer:
“Most parents when we were growing up were entrenched in their community. Today’s families aren’t as entrenched. A lot of them are going to the next best thing whether it’s jobs or whatever. How can we control that? I don’t know. You can’t tell parents what to do. You can’t say you have to stay in this neighborhood or that neighborhood. It’s unfortunate that the trend is not to stay in the same communities anymore. What we’ve learned here is you have to look and see what is going on. We live in a transit world.”
Should public and private schools be separated?
“The AHSAA is in its 100th year. McGill-Toolen is a founding member. How would you tell a founding member you’ve got to go? For 100 years, public and private schools have combined to form a great association. I don’t know how you say one is better than the other. They all have a chance to compete for a championship. Should we water it down so someone else has a chance?”
OTHER MEDIA DAY NOTES
— New AHSAA assistant director Jeff Segars said close to 60 schools have signed up to play girls flag football in its first year. The plan is to have a season-ending tournament with a championship game the Wednesday of the Super 7 in Birmingham.
— Last spring, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) voted to permit a 35-second clock beginning with the 2022-2023 season by state association adoption. AHSAA assistant director Jamie Lee said the organization would start polling member schools in Alabama this week to get a general idea of what the thoughts are of having the clock in this state. If the Central Board approves a move forward, a final vote of member principals would be conducted in January. Sixty-seven percent of the more than 400 basketball playing schools would need to approve the shot clock for it to be implemented. Lee said, if it is approved, it won’t be optional like the instant replay. Each school will have it. Lee said the cost would be between $2,500-$3,500 per school.