Football coaches have been asking for one thing as the CIAC’s fluid fall plan has continuously changed since it was first announced in July.
A chance to prove they can play football safely, a chance for athletes to get on the field.
On Wednesday night when it was reported that the CIAC would move forward with football and once again set a date for starting the season, coaches felt like they got that chance.
“They’re giving us a fighting chance,” Bunnell coach Ty Jenkins said.
The chance the coaches and players alike wanted was a chance to prove they can play in a safe way amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one is saying that COVID-19 is a hoax,” Jenkins said. “We understand that it is a big deal.”
The CIAC’s plan is the same as originally announced on July 31, just moved back a couple of weeks. It states teams can hold conditioning with cohorts of 10 until Sept. 21. On that day teams will be able to hold their first practice with their full team and have contact. The first game will be Oct. 1.
“The CIAC, I think, did a good job of at least giving us a plan when we asked for it,” Jenkins said.
While teams can currently only be together for an hour of conditioning, coaches have stressed to their players that what they do away from the field is just as important.
“It’s important what we do in the hour we have,” Cheshire coach Don Drust said, “but it’s even more important what they do in the 23 hours we’re not with each other.
“In order for this to continue and to go forward, the other hours are important.”
The Rams coach stressed players doing the right things away from the field will put them in position to attend school and have extracurricular activities, including football.
“The goal is to be we’re doing the right things on our end to get them back into school safely,” he said. “If you can do that and we’re doing all the things we’re supposed to do and helping these kids and following the guidelines, then that will happen.”
Even with the CIAC having a plan in place for now, everything hinges on the COVID-19 metrics across the state.
“As we move forward, that’s what the experience with COVID has been,” CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said during Thursday’s news conference. “We have to see how we progress and, over that time, we have to understand how have the metrics changed or not changed to allow us to take that next step. Sports is no different from where we are in every aspect of our lives with this.”
While teams will continue to condition until the appropriate date, things on the field have already changed.
“We’re going to try and stagger our starts for practice,” Norwalk coach Pat Miller said. “We won’t have everyone on the field at the same exact time.”
Jenkins reiterated this idea, noting Bunnell has its cohorts enter the field from different gates.
“It’s different, but we’re going to make sure that they’re safe,” he said.
Teams will also continue to have players fill out health questionnaires and have their temperature taken, while not using the locker room.
“I have two one-hour sessions and 19 cohorts between the two sessions,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “Each player has a monitoring form before they go to practice. We have footballs designated for just each individual cohort that will be cleaned and sterilized.
“My job is all paperwork, the amount of behind-the-scenes work is mind-boggling,” Morello added. “I take a lot of time making sure everything is sterilized. There’s a lot that goes into it, it’s not as cut and dried as report to the field and go.”
Despite all the time and effort teams plan on putting into safety, there is still a chance they won’t be able to play come Oct. 1.
“It’s just like football, you can do everything right and sometimes it doesn’t work out for you,” Miller said. “But doing the right thing gives you the best chance.”
Dave Fierro contributed to this story.