Being a football coach is vexing this year.
No need to stop the presses on that phenomenon. Being anything is vexing this year. No one should feel so all alone if infected with the virus of being infected with the virus.
Daryl Smith, entering his first year as head football coach at Laurens District High School, grew up in North Augusta. If he still lived there, the football requirements would be similar to how they are here. If, however, he drove for seven minutes to the closest school on the other side of the Savannah River, it would be standard operating procedure. The team would already be practicing, and the season would be just a few weeks away. Such is the state of affairs regarding sports in Georgia.
What is the situation here? It depends on where it is, and tomorrow, or next week, everything may change.
Smith is accentuating the positive. On Wednesday, the S.C. High School League pushed back football season – and the beginning of full workouts – by two more weeks. The Raiders are still going to open at Greenwood, but the game won’t be until Sept. 25.
“It gives you a little more time,” he says. “We will still work out in small groups (14 players and two coaches, at present) four days a week.”
Football players were allowed to use footballs for the first time this week. The week after next, they will have the right to put on helmets.
This all sounds as if there ought to be a punch line. Imagine being able to catch a football and wear a helmet at the same time. Next thing you know, they’ll be chewing gum.
Smith is mystified by the abrupt changes driven by the COVID-19 crisis. He understands it is serious. He and his staff are making the best of trying to hit a moving target. He wishes it wasn’t moving so fast.
“The schools have benchmarks,” he says. “They look at whether or not the spread of the virus is getting better or worse. In athletics, I haven’t seen any benchmarks. Is the rate high? Is it going down? The district tells us if we can practice, but the district can’t tell us how we can practice.”
The Raiders have done well. None of the players or coaches has had problems while the team has been working out. Smith worries more about when it is not working out. When the program shut down for a few weeks, one player tested positive but was asymptomatic. By the time workouts resumed, he tested negative.
“I think the safest time is when they are practicing with us. They’re wearing masks. We’re taking precautions and social distancing,” Smith says. “What worries me more is when they’re not with us.
“I’m good with being as safe as possible, but it’s the constant moving of the goalpost that’s hard for me to get my hands around.”
Coaching is always a matter of doing the best with what the coach has. This year is just far more complicated.