Football, Volleyball Squads Face COVID-19 Altered Seasons

Duncanville football players link arms
Photo by John Askew

“If You Can’t Adjust, You Are Lost” Say Coach Brent Whitson

Better late than never.

At least that’s what football and volleyball coaches around the state are hoping is the scenario as they start to prepare for seasons that have been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to play this season,” said DeSoto Athletic Director Larry Davis. “The No. 1 goal is the safety and well-being of our athletes, coaches and fans. From there, it will be like any other season, focusing on one game at a time and giving it our all, on and off the field.”

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) has announced that teams in Classes 5A and 6A will begin the football regular season either Sept. 24-26 or Oct. 1-3. The dates depend on whether they have offered strength and conditioning since Aug. 24. In volleyball, the starting dates are Sept. 14 or 18.

Meanwhile, schools in Classes 1A-4A will begin the football regular season Aug. 27-29 and start volleyball Aug. 10 or 17, depending on whether they have offered strength and conditioning since July 20.

Smaller Schools To Start Seasons First

While some have questioned why smaller schools are starting sooner than the larger ones, Venus Assistant Superintendent Hollis Moore said what’s most important is getting started.

“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for our kids. We’ve had good numbers working hard since June with strength, conditioning and sport-specific training. Our athletes and staff are excited and ready to get started,” Moore said.

In addition, teams will have less practice time than normal before starting their respective seasons. Teams are also only allowed one scrimmage date.

“We’ll take it. I am sincerely concerned that after no organized workouts since July 20, eleven days is not enough time to get kids ready to scrimmage,” South Grand Prairie football coach Brent Whitson said. “The time schedule imposed by Dallas County, UIL and our school district gives us no choice.”

Cedar Hill football coach Carlos Lynn said, “We’ve always only had one scrimmage. That will not be a difference. Whatever happens, the Longhorns will be prepared.”

Football teams will have 11 weeks in which they can play 10 games in the regular season.

Volleyball adjustments include:

SGP volleyball team

No more than four teams may meet for scrimmage purposes at one site.

Allowable matches are 29.

No invitational tournaments will be allowed.

No more than three matches per week, and only one on a school night.

District certification adjusted to a Tuesday to add a postseason play date (Oct. 27 for Classes 1A-4A, Nov. 17 for Classes 5A-6A).

No regional tournaments. Semifinal and finals have separate playing dates.

“Having the adjusted schedule will be difficult because now we will have to play three matches a week and back-to-back days, so I worry that the girls will be tired and possibly overworked,” Grand Prairie volleyball coach Lana Chatterton said. “Not having tournaments and having only one scrimmage is hard because that is usually the time to see what the girls can do, who they can play next to, change up line-ups and try different options to see what is going to work best before the season starts.

“I am just excited to see my girls and start practices again. COVID has really changed things up, but I know my teams will come out strong and be ready to get back on the court with positive attitudes and the right mindset.”

Coaches Are Okay With Not Playing Tournaments

DeSoto volleyball coach Rhea Reed said she is fine with no tournaments in this time of COVID-19 because of the number of people who would be playing and attending.

“I, as a coach, was not comfortable with having a tournament this season because of the pandemic. For me it was a good decision made to not allow for tournament play,” she said.

Reed noted that COVID-19 will play a major role in not only less prep time for the season, but also in the actual practices.

“This will play a huge role in practice plans as far as scheduled breaks within the practice schedule, with sanitation breaks as well as for the girls and coaches to try and keep all equipment as sanitized as possible,” she said. “Our young ladies will be asked to bring their own towels, as well as wear some type of mask during non-intrusive drills and while coming and going. We will also use social distancing guidelines.”

Whitson added, “All practices will be affected by COVID. Social distancing, masks, hydration all require a level of detail that outsiders cannot comprehend. We will get it done.”

Less time to prepare for season

Reed also sees only one scrimmage as a possible plus for volleyball teams.

“With only having one scrimmage, you will have to get your team prepared mentally a bit earlier and see less of versatile opponents, but having one scrimmage also can reduce less chance of fatigue and injury for athletes, like having no tournaments,” she said. “I think you will see teams looking fresher and less stressed without these two things, as well as being more competitive at the end of the season.”

As for the postseason, Classes 1A-4A volleyball will begin Oct. 29, with the state tournament Nov. 18-21. Classes 5A and 6A start on Nov. 19, with the state tournament set for Dec. 11-12.

Keeping Players Safe Is Coaches First Concern

“I am more concerned about playing into cold/flu season,” Reed said. “As the months pass so does the warmer climate, which brings on different challenges for everyone. Rain, decrease in outside temperatures, seasonal changes that bring on different viruses and complications. We have to think about our athletes who have underlying conditions, such as asthma, sickle trait, pulmonary disorders etc. with this thing and that is my first concern and priority, keeping them safe and my family and the families of my coaches and players safe as well.”

Whitson echoed those thoughts, “I am worried that we have backed the season right into the teeth of what has been cold and flu season for years/decades.”

Postseason football for Classes 1A-4A begins Nov. 12, with state championships Dec. 16-19. Classes 5A and 6A begin the playoffs Dec. 10, with state championships scheduled in 2021 on Jan. 11, a first for that sport.

“Gonna be different, but will be exciting playing that time of year. If you play into January you got a chance to win it all,” Lynn said.

“The main objective we have is giving the kids a chance to play as close to a full season as possible, especially the senior class,” Davis said, summing up the situation in a positive light.

“I will continue to say what I have preached to my players and coaches since mid-June. Until they say canceled, everything is good news,” Whitson said. “In 2020, if you can’t adjust you are lost.”

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters