Area high school football coaches find LHSAA guidelines to be daunting task
As Teurlings Catholic's head football coach Dane Charpentier read over the latest football guidelines announced by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, he couldn't help but wonder how difficult the implementation would be.
As time passed and he gave it more thought, Charpentier came to a conclusion shared by many of his fellow coaches not only in the Acadiana area, but around the state.
"I don't think it is very realistic," Charpentier said.
Comeaux head football coach Doug Dotson said some schools may have a more difficult time than others.
"Anything can be done as long as you have the manpower to do it," Dotson said. "But the reality is not all schools are equal when it comes to manpower. If School A has 22 coaches and School B has 10 coaches, it is going to be a lot easier for School A to enforce these guidelines than it will for School B."
In a memo sent to schools Friday, the LHSAA revealed recommendations regarding protocols for games and practices, which include wearing masks on the sideline, social distancing, handling of water bottles and limiting roster size, among other things. In addition, jamborees and scrimmages were officially canceled to in an effort to decrease exposure between teams and fans.
Everyone except the 22 players on the field is required to wear a mask. Game balls should be sanitized throughout practices and games and hand sanitizer must be available.
"To me, the guidelines written couldn't have been written by someone who has been around the sport of high school football," Charpentier said. "I feel like this is something that has been set up to fail."
Northside head football coach John Simmons agreed the guidelines were "going to be very difficult to do."
"I just don't know how you are going to police it," Simmons said.
Coaches had a number of questions regarding the guidelines, but none bigger than how are they going to enforce things such as the mask wearing and the players being responsible for their own water bottle.
"My coaching staff and I have worn a mask all summer and we can talk with it," Lafayette Christian Academy's head coach Jacarde Carter said. "We can communicate with it, but it isn't very clear. But with these guidelines, I just don't know what this is all going to look like. How are they going to police this stuff? Are we talking about a flag if someone is on the sideline and not wearing a mask?"
Charpentier also wondered what enforcement would look like.
"Is (a mask) going to be an equipment thing like knee pads?" Charpentier asked. "Are we going to get penalties or a fine if someone is on the sideline without a mask on? If everyone has to have a mask, where are these masks being put when they are in the game or when they are subbing into the game? We can't have someone third party holding the mask because that then defeats the purpose of having masks. Honestly, if this thing doesn't have teeth, people won't do it."
Head coaches will also be required to complete a COVID-19 course that is being offered by the National Federation of High Schools.
"Football is not a sanitary game," Charpentier said. "We do the best we can, but it is a contact sport. Time will tell on how realistic these guidelines are, but as a coach I can tell you sanitation is the furthest thing from our minds during a football game."
While some coaches could agree with limiting roster size on Friday nights, Dotson believes it could ultimately result in fewer people playing football.
"No. 1, I dress everybody who participates in football," Dotson said. "It is hard for me to think that I have kids coming to practice Monday through Thursday and then they don't get to go to the game on Friday. How do you ask a kid to give you his blood, sweat and tears Monday through Thursday, but then tell him he can't come to game? I'm not in favor of cutting a roster down. I believe if that happens, players will become discouraged and quit. I really think it would be a travesty to the kids to cut the rosters down."
LCA's number of players dressed for varsity games have steadily increased over the years, and this year the Knights expect to dress slightly under 70 players. Teurlings typically have had anywhere from 90 to more than 100 players dressed for varsity games; however Charpentier believes reduced rosters on game day is more doable than some of the other guidelines.
"Reducing the roster size isn't something I would want to do, but I do feel out of everything that it is more realistic to do."
Regardless of how any coach feels about the guidelines presented Friday, all seemingly agree in the end it is a small price to pay if it affords high school football to be played this fall.
"Without question it is worth doing if it allows us to play football," Charpentier said. "I'll go a lot further for the kids to be able to play. No matter what, the No. 1 thing for me is that I want these kids to get the opportunity to play. They deserve the chance to play, especially these seniors. I'm willing to do whatever we have to do it and however we have to do it safely for the kids to play."
Dotson said a lot of athletes are relying on football season for scholarships and other reasons — including staying safe.
"We are taking temperatures here and social distancing during practice, so I believe kids are a lot safer here playing football than hanging out with their friends where none of the stuff we are doing is being done," Dotson said. "You have some kids who are still fighting for college scholarships and kids who have been injured in the past who are looking forward to playing this year, so I want them to be able to play."
Eric Narcisse covers high school sports for The Daily Advertiser. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @eric_narcisse.