The Waverly High School football program has changed the way they carry out practices and game days to keep players, coaches, and families healthy while playing the game they love.
On Aug. 14, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cancelled high school football in the state of Michigan due to the spread of the virus, but at the beginning of September, she reversed her decision and allowed football to be played under certain precautions.
Scott Casteele, the athletic director at Waverly High School, said players, coaches and school community have done well navigating through the uncertainties of this time.
“Everybody has done a nice job,” Casteele said. “Our people roll with the punches well.”
For football to be played at high school level, all players must wear masks and practice social distancing. Another guideline put in place is a limit on crowd size. As of Oct. 9, high schools can have up to 1,000 fans in the stands depending on the capacity of the stadiums. Waverly allows 30% of the stands to be filled.
Waverly has set up a radio broadcast and a livestream on YouTube for fans who have to stay home for the football games. If players, coaches or administrators do not use their guest tickets for a game, Casteele is able to transfer tickets to other players who might have more family members who want to be at the game.
Ron Pizzo, the head coach of the football team said parents have been excellent through all of the uncertainty.
“Parents understand the situation, and they’re just excited their kids can play football,” Pizzo said.
Pizzo said the team starts practice a half hour early to take care of temperature checks and ask wellness check questions. The wellness check questions consist of asking if they have experienced nausea, headaches or any Coronavirus symptoms. The team has a coach on staff whose focus is to make sure players keep their masks on when they are supposed to and to keep players socially distanced.
The sports trainer at the school is in charge of staying in contact with other schools on the schedule to make sure teams are healthy to play the upcoming week.
“Our trainer does an excellent job communicating with other schools on standards for COVID safety,” Pizzo said.
Some players do not like wearing a mask while playing, but they know it is something they have to do to play.
“I wanted to play football, so I have to play with the mask,” said Victor Smith, a senior outside linebacker on the team. “I don’t like it, but I got used to it.”
Blake Johnson, a senior linebacker and running back on the team, said the mask can make it difficult to communicate.
“My biggest thing is trying to talk with the mask on and having a mouthguard at the same time,” Johnson said.
Smith and Johnson both said the masks have not affected their conditioning.
“Players have adapted really well, and masks just a part of the equipment now,” Pizzo said. “They learned how to breathe with it, and we have a great group of guys who are coachable.”
“It’s been different, it’s been laborious, but I think it has been worth it.” Casteele said, “We control what we can do the best we can.”