Though there is no clarity yet on the impact the coronavirus pandemic could have on the fall high school sports calendar, the AHSAA announced Thursday that it is prohibiting high school sports competitions this summer.
According to the memo, “schools may still hold camps with their students and feeder school students” assuming schools are allowed to re-open June 8 as planned.
The ban on summer competition applies to all sports, though football and volleyball are the two team sports scheduled to start at the beginning of the school year.
“It’s not (a big deal) to us, I’ll be honest with you,” Brooks football coach Brad Black said of 7-on-7 scrimmages. “That’s not one of the things we depend on.
“We go for the competition. We go for the team-building end of it.”
Colbert County football coach Brett Mask said he took his team on an overnight trip to Winfield’s scrimmages last year, but that was not as much about preparation for the season as it was a chance for players to spend time together and see different opponents.
Mask thinks the restrictions on summer competitions will actually “level the playing field” a bit given some schools have more money to spend on big trips than others do.
“We’re all in the same boat, so it’s not like somebody’s getting an advantage,” Mask said.
The AHSAA memo said the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) hopes schools can reopen June 8. If that happens, teams are allowed to practice, condition and lift weights as long as their school districts allow it.
The memo said the ALSDE will also release limitations on a number of people present per group and other health and safety guidelines by next Friday.
It remains unclear what specific restrictions or guidelines might be in place later this summer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and how those guidelines might change summer activities.
Both Mask and Black said they use June to focus on weightlifting and conditioning and use July to work on plays and strategy.
“I think you have to be flexible and I think you have to look at your priorities,” Mask said.
Muscle Shoals volleyball coach Maggie Finley said tryouts would normally be taking place now, but instead she hopes to have them in early July. In the meantime, she will allow girls interested in competing who have not yet tried out to work with the team in June.
“I can only work with nine girls at a time,” Finley said, referring to the current limit on group activities. “Another coach can work with nine girls at a time. We can’t be in the same location.”
Fortunately she can accommodate a lot of athletes thanks to two varsity assistants, a JV coach and two middle school coaches who can all oversee workouts, but they will have to spread throughout the school.
Finley hoped to take the team to a summer playdate at Foley, in Baldwin County, but some of the player development that might have happened there will have to take place this fall.
“Oh, I won’t lie to you,” she said. “It does, it makes me anxious.”
The biggest unanswered question is whether the seasons for fall sports will start on time or even happen at all.
Mask is choosing not to panic about that.
“You can worry about it and you can sit there and drive yourself crazy,” he said.
Black recognizes the situation is fluid and, though he remains optimistic about the football season taking place, he reminded some Brooks athletes in the spring there are worse things in life than having a season canceled or cut short.
“I’m sure Coach Briggs and Coach Savarese want to have football just as bad as we do in Killen,” Black said, referring to AHSAA administrators Alvin Briggs and Steve Savarese.
Mask said he was already planning on simplifying Colbert County’s offense for this fall, and a summer that’s hard to plan for is the perfect time to do it.
Black said many of his players are familiar with Brooks’ basic schematic concepts and he doesn’t anticipate making major changes.
“It looks like we run a bunch (of plays), but we don’t,” Black said.
Asked if the uncertainty of having a season could be a distraction for players, Black said his players — particularly seniors — are too invested in the season not to give their best effort getting ready.
“We’ll adjust as we go to whatever gets thrown at us,” Black said.
Finley predicts getting to see her players in person again will probably ease her anxiety about the future as well as theirs. She recently held a Zoom video conferencing call with the team and felt joy as each player logged on to join it.
“When I got to see their faces, I was like a little kid that just got to go to Disneyland,” Finley said. “To see that they’re doing good, to see them smile, it just means the world.”