Football navigates through COVID-19

Yorkton Minor Football is gearing up for the 2020 season, and recently handed out equipment to students who are eager to hit the field and get back into the game.

But what’s football going to look like this year? With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the football season will look different from usual, as they attempt to prevent the spread of the disease while also giving kids the chance to play.

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Right now, the minor football teams have been cleared to practice, said coach Jason Boyda, with some age categories hitting the field this week, with the youngest category, the Mighty Mites, starting next week. They are now waiting for clearance to play games from SHA, and the Pee Wee and Bantam games may go down to nine man football instead of twelve.

“We can practice as close to normally as we’ve done in the past because we’re outdoors and the way football practice is scheduled, we have a natural social distancing taking place... You have individual periods where the quarterback is working on quarterback drills only, the running backs are working on their thing, the linemen are working on their thing, everyone is spread out working in smaller groups.”

Each team will have a COVID safety officer, which will ensure that rules are followed and all equipment is sanitized, Boyda said. Players will sanitize their hands before and after practice. All kids will be expected to have their own water bottles. Contact drills will also be very limited. All equipment will be sprayed down to sanitize after each practice. When games are cleared to take place, each team will have their own football, which will be sanitized between plays. Any parents watching will be asked to spread themselves out with two meters in between each family if they choose to watch.

There will also be new rules. Spitting, for example, will be an infraction on the same level as fighting, Boyda said, with players getting ejected from the game if they spit on the field. Players will also be required to keep mouth guards in at all times.

Locker rooms are out, with all players having to show up at the field already changed. Bathrooms are allowed, but with a limit on the number of people using them simultaneously.

Coaches have also been instructed in safe contact guidelines which players will need to follow, to ensure that if there is contact it’s going to be safe for players and limit the risk of COVID.

“There can be contact, you just have to limit it.”

Players also need to stay home if they’re not feeling well, or if their family has been notified of possible exposure, and Boyda said they really want to emphasize this to players.

“You don’t have to be a tough player, you don’t have to show your toughness. If you’re not feeling well, do not come.”

While this season is going to be limited, Boyda is happy that they’re still able to play. One of the unique things about the game, he said, is that it’s a sport with room for every body type to be successful. He’s grateful they won’t have to miss a season.

“Some of those kids who don’t fit the body type that other sports have, they’re going to be missing out. That’s not right.”

Boyda said that while Saskatchewan isn’t perfect, we’ve been pretty good at flattening the curve, so as a province we’re lucky that sports are beginning again.

“I’m staying optimistic, and faithful to the good lord, that we will be able to play the greatest sport on this earth!”

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