I have always viewed Christmas in July as a way for businesses to drum up some post-Fourth of July sales. And for certain television networks to dip into a vault of Christmas movies.
But Christmas in June? It really happened last week when high school teams converged on campuses across the state for the first time since mid-March when the novel coronavirus closed schools.
I saw it first-hand Tuesday. There were no handshakes, high-fives or hugs. None of that is allowed in Phase 2 of Louisiana’s reopening. No contact drills were possible, either.
The excitement was evident, even though players and coaches were wearing masks that covered their faces. It was the first tenuous step toward high school sports in 2020-21.
No one knows for sure what path the seasons may take as we all seek out whatever the new normal will be in the COVID-19 era. For now, being there — whether in a weight room, gym, field or track — is enough.
As I spoke with coaches throughout the week, one thing became obvious. There won’t be just one normal; there likely will be a lot of “normals” based on each school’s situation.
“It felt like Christmas, because everybody was so happy to see each other,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “Our plan is to use this first three weeks for conditioning. Once we hopefully get into Phase 3 next month, we will be able to do more.
“We had some kids who came back in the best shape of their lives and others who probably spent a lot of time playing video games. We feel like we’ve got to give them some time get on an even footing.”
The Broncos represent one end of the spectrum with 138 players attending one of three workout sessions, all assigned into 25-player groups that took turns in the weight run and running.
There were no footballs in site, though David Simoneaux of Class 1A Catholic-Pointe Coupee said his team’s first week of practice did include one socially distant walkthrough that was “just for fun.”
CHSPC was one of several schools that opted to break down its weight room and put a station of weights outdoors — something Catholic High defensive coordinator Deuce Harrison did in an LHSCA Zoom clinic on just a few weeks ago.
“We divided our team into groups of 20 players and went back to the basics on a lot of things,” Brusly coach Hoff Schooler said. “As they got into the routine of knowing what to do with checking in and doing the health screening, it went really smooth.”
Most schools had coaches or players wipe down weight equipment after each use. Zachary used a newly purchased fogger that could sanitize the weight room and dry within five minutes.
Duct tape was used to mark 6-foot social distance spots. Even with that, coaches had to occasionally remind players to “spread out.”
Kids being kids? Absolutely. who can blame them.
But as odd as the new normals are, one thing is certain — it beats the past three months when high school fields, weight rooms and gyms were empty.
Three months ago, I referred to the COVID-19 situation as being a sports version of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” as in the day the music died. At the time, I had no idea how right I would be.
When the time is right, I do believe there will be games again. I am certainly no pandemic prognosticator. Let’s all take one week of practice and put it in the win column. And patiently wait a bit longer.