If there had been advance notice, an orchestra of coaches offering backup might have been ready when LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said he wants fall sports seasons to start on time.

Bonine’s Friday interview offered positive reinforcement for coaches and athletes. Making a fall season a reality is something coaches and school administrators have been pondering over the past two months since the novel coronavirus pandemic closed schools.

Cautious optimism is in place. There are plenty of plans and ideas about what high school sports could look like in 2020-21 — all framed by parameters none of us have seen before.

“I watched the meeting the Resilient Louisiana Commission had online last week, and that made me feel better about having sports this year,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher's athletic director and football coach. “The sport I am the probably least optimistic about right now is football, because it is a contact sport.

“When talked with Mr. Bonine earlier in the week, I was pleased with what he said and his approach. We all want sports. But as coaches, this is where we really need to step up and support for our kids, especially if we can’t play games or if their season gets interrupted. We’ve been through hurricanes before. A storm ends, and then you rebuild. This is ongoing. We’re still in it.”

Parkview Baptist headmaster Don Mayes, like other administrators, is planning to have fall classes on campus and would love for athletics to be set to go too.

“I like Mr. Bonine’s positive approach. Planning is good … you need to have multiple plans ready, along with your facilities,” Mayes said. “We’ve had the deep cleaning done on all our school and sports facilities.

“Our ability to adjust and make changes in a short time frame may be the most crucial thing. We’re used to planning for semesters and school years. As the guidelines and knowledge about the virus evolve, we have to be ready to make changes.”

Ideally, all the policy makers like Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s school superintendents and the LHSAA would be on the same page regarding 2020-21 high school athletics in a COVID-19 world. Dutchtown High athletic director/football coach Guy Mistretta believes that might be too much to expect.

“In a perfect world, we would all be able to begin training for next year soon,” Mistretta said. “And in a perfect world, all schools and school systems would be on the same timeline. But we understand that’s probably not going to happen with all that is going on. What we have to do is make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in.”

A focus on the health and well-being of each student/athlete is the most important core concept all moving forward. For Hoff Schooler, athletic director/football coach at Brusly High, that means getting players ready to handle Louisiana’s heat and humidity after losing spring conditioning, along with concerns fans don’t think about.

“We are fortunate to have a full-time athletic trainer, and we will rely on that expertise as we train and get our athletes ready to compete,” Schooler said. “What if no fans are allowed or just a limited number? Most schools rely on gate receipts to pay officials and provide revenue. And you can’t forget about cheerleaders and band members. These games are part of their high school experience too. We have to be ready for those things too.”

Until the Louisiana’s reopening plans are released, planning will go on.

“We all want to get back out and see our kids in person. Some schools are advertising summer camps,” Walker athletic director Steve Johnson said. “Everybody is planning. Until we’re told what we can do and the school system approves it, we have to wait. We all hope it’s soon.”


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com