SIDNEY — The first week of practice has been relatively normal for Sidney’s football team according to coach Adam Doenges, even with many safety protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There won’t be any scrimmages for Sidney or any Ohio high school football team for the foreseeable future. School vs. school competitions (including regular-season games) are currently prohibited for contact sports.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association said in a statement late last month it doesn’t anticipate that changing soon and believes there’s a high possibility football teams won’t be able to scrimmage before regular-season games are scheduled to kick off later this month.
“It’s odd,” Doenges said. “We’ve already spent the entire summer together and haven’t had anything like (7-on-7’s) where you see other teams. Now we’ve got to go through intense moments when practices start ramping up just (by ourselves).
“Usually the plus when practices start ramping up is at the end of the week you get to go up against someone in a different colored jersey, kind of let off some steam and get after it a little bit. We don’t have that this year, so we’ll have to keep monitoring kids and keep making sure we get through these 24 days (of practice) and are ready to go without getting at each other’s throats.
“That’s going to be an issue for a lot of teams. When you spend that much time with the same people and you never get to see or go against anybody else, that can be an issue. So we’re keeping things fresh and keeping things light and trying to do the best in these circumstances.”
All fall sports teams were permitted by the OHSAA to begin official preseason practice last Saturday. Sports deemed noncontact by the state government — including golf, tennis, volleyball and cross country — were cleared for regular competitions earlier this summer.
High school boys and girls golf was allowed by the OHSAA to begin regular-season play on Wednesday and girls tennis was allowed to begin Friday. Volleyball and cross country will be allowed to begin regular-season play later this month.
All sports were permitted by the state government and OHSAA to practice in late June and all of July. Sidney athletic director Mitch Hoying said things went relatively smoothly during offseason practices this summer and said all fall sports preseason practices have been uneventful through the first week.
“Our attendance this summer has been better than it’s ever been,” Hoying said. “Our kids are excited to be at school. They want to be a part of things. You lost the whole spring and having it taken away, I think everybody realized how much fun it is.
“Our weight room production has been very good. We had limited to no health concerns through our interactions this summer. Obviously with football and soccer being contact sports, they’re a little limited right now, but everybody else is up and running pretty close to normal.
Because the OHSAA prohibited all training activities from mid-March to late May, teams were allowed unlimited practice time in the summer as opposed to normally being limited to 10 summer practice days.
Doenges said another added bonus of the additional practice time allowed over the summer was players had more opportunities to get used to current safety protocols. Players can’t share any equipment or water bottles and must wear masks when indoors.
“We’re spending less time inside and don’t hang out as much,” Doenges said. “One of the nice things about camp is bonding and the locker room atmosphere in down time like when you’re eating. That’s different this year.
“When we’re doing that kind of stuff or we’re indoors watching film, we’ve adjusted how we do that. The kids have done a nice job sticking to it. We’re using our visiting locker room (in addition to the home locker room) to have guys spread out more. We’ve been outside more in general, too. It’s nice the weather’s been cooperating.”
Hoying said there haven’t been many problems with teams adhering to safety protocols.
“The only sport in the district we kind of held off on starting is middle school football because they’ve had limited conditioning this summer, but everyone else has basically been coming in at least since July 4 if not sooner, so I think everyone is used to the extra health precautions by now,” Hoying said.
“All the disinfecting and cleaning protocols and the general process of what you do when you enter a building, that’s already a few months old for everybody.”
For now, the next question for Sidney and all other high schools around the state is if and when soccer and football will be permitted to play games. The OHSAA’s calendar has regular-season play for soccer scheduled to begin on Aug. 21 and football to begin the week of Aug. 24.
Permission from the state government is needed for those sports to play. Until then, they’re allowed only to practice.
“Hopefully we’ll get a decision on those soon,” Hoying said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.