Pandemic Impact

The Blueprint for a Winter Football Season

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

As of press time, only California and Hawaii state athletic associations had committed to moving the football season to a January start date. While inclement weather may not be a factor in either state, the revised calendar will offer some challenges.

Tyler Roberts has spent most of the school year looking at the California High (San Ramon, Calif.) athletics calendar, trying to find a way to program a football schedule for a Dec. 14 return to practice and Jan. 8 return to games.

“We’re hoping to get back out to the field,” Roberts said. “The fact that teams are participating in other states and haven’t seen large breakouts helps our case.”

Roberts and coaches all across California will be at the mercy of their particular county’s health protocols. The fall schedule will be dependent on that county’s tier ranking, which is decided by the COVID-19 infection rate.

Here is how Roberts scheduled the season.

October (Sunset Period)

In Contra Costa County where California High is located, teams are in the “Sunset Period”. The team can congregate in groups no larger than 16 with a 2:14 ratio of staff to students.

The football team will host an activity camp, but players can not share equipment and must still adhere to the 16-person limit.

For the most part, California High coaches are restricting in-person training sessions to position groups. Team-wide workouts are typically held over video conferencing technology.

“Guys will go to a local park or go out in their backyard, and we’ll do the workouts as a team,” Roberts said.

November (Tier 1, 2, 3)

There is no guarantee for dates or deadlines for moving through the tiers, but Roberts and his staff are planning contingency plans for just about every outcome. During this phase, the hope is that the California High players will be able to return to the weight room in smaller groups as well as host practices for up to 50 players on the field.

If that is the case, the team will begin a 4-6 week strength training phase with a goal of laying the foundation before the start of practice on Dec. 14.

The coaches will have speed and agility workouts for players in groups of up to 50. Coaches will also conduct install meetings and position meetings over Zoom so that players can review or learn the scheme before the first practice.

Dec. 14 (Start of Practice)

Some counties are pushing the start of practice to Dec. 7, but Contra Costa County has yet to do that. Coaches will have approximately four weeks to prepare for the season, so it will be similar to a normal preseason schedule — with the exception of scrimmages. Roberts and many other coaches in California are not expecting to have scrimmages before the Jan. 8 start date. The biggest challenge will be keeping the athletes engaged through the winter break.

Jan. 8 (Season Kicks Off)

The Season Crunch

In addition to the challenge of preparing for a winter football season, California coaches are at risk of losing players to other sports. The typical three-season sports year has been crunched into two seasons. Here are the options for boys:

Fall Sports

Football, boys volleyball, water polo, cross-country, skiing, snowboarding

Spring Sports

Soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, badminton, wrestling, basketball, baseball, golf, track and field.

The one positive about the switch to a two-season school year for coaches is that the football season will not be condensed — like it will be in many states this fall. The last day of section playoffs in California is set for April 10, 2021. The last day of regional state championship matchups will be April 17, 2021. The leaves 15 weeks for the football season.