Nevada Union, Bear River football teams open summer practice sessions with COVID-19 precautions in place
Local high school sports teams were given the go-ahead to start up team activities this week, bringing joy to athletes and coaches who are thrilled to be back on the field.
“We had one player, our first day, who teared up just because he was happy to be out here,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks. “He missed his teammates and buddies. So, a lot of this is about mental health, too.”
The football teams from Nevada Union and Bear River both got back to work this week, using the California Interscholastic Federation’s Guidelines for Return to Physical Activity/Training as a road map.
“That’s the format that we’re using and that’s the format our district and our county health department approved. So we’re sticking to that,” said Bear River Athletic Director and co-head football coach Scott Savoie. “It’s definitely not practice as usual, but it’s better than not being able to practice at all.”
Savoie said the Bruins varsity team has around 30 kids participating in practice sessions, with the junior varsity team boasting slightly higher numbers. At Nevada Union, Sparks said the varsity team has around 30 players each day at practice, and the JV Miners will get started July 6.
“They have to wear a mask when they get here,” Sparks said, noting some of the protocols in place. “They immediately check in and we have about 12 to 14 (health) questions, and we take their temperatures, and then they’re allowed to come out here on the turf. They have to keep their space. I allow them to take their masks off when they are on the field.
Once on the field, players are placed into small groups called pods and spaced at least 6 feet apart as they cycle through drills and workouts.
“As coaches, we keep our distance, too,” Sparks said. “Most the time we’re 10 yards away from them. We’re keeping more distance than we’re probably required to, but so what? I don’t want to get shutdown. I want to make sure we’re going overboard and if we can become the model for what you should be doing; I hope that can be us.”
Sparks added the Miners aren’t using a ball in any drills and are mostly focused on conditioning, improving flexibility and speed training.
The Bruins are getting in similar work.
“We got the kids out there working on lots of different things,” said Savoie. “Mostly conditioning, speed training, strength and core strength; doing pretty much everything on the field. Not really using the weight room. Just getting everything going. And, it feels great.”
Savoie said other Bear River prep sports teams, including girls volleyball and cross-country, are also steadily and safely getting back at it as well.
Nevada Union junior Gabe Baker said it’s great to be back on the football field, even if it is conditioning work on a hot day.
“I love being out here with the guys,” Baker said. “A lot of them I haven’t seen since school. So it’s really good to be out here, even if we’re running in the hot sun, it’s a lot of fun.”
Baker added the return has also been good for the mental health of players.
“It’s good for our confidence and good for our mental health,” he said. “I know I’m stressed about if the season will happen or whatever, but everyone seems to be in high spirits and I think that’s because of this.”
Sparks said he can see this process working for now, but won’t hesitate to shut it down if he feels a player or coach may be at risk.
“I can see this where it can work. Is it extra steps? Yep. But, if we need to take extra steps to ensure our kids are safe and healthy, and we can still play football, then let’s do it,” he said, noting, “I’m taking the highest precautions, and if I need to shut down for a few weeks to make sure our kids are safe, that’s what I’m going to do. We’re going to take every measure to make sure our players and coaches are safe and healthy. … The last thing I want to do is put our kids, our school or our community at risk.”
No decision has been made as far as when high school sports will start competing in the fall, but the CIF is set to make a decision on that matter in mid-July.
“As our member schools begin planning for the reopening of school, the CIF, in collaboration with our 10 Sections, will be determining by July 20 if fall sports will continue as currently scheduled,” said a June 12 statement on CIF’s website. “The CIF is prepared to offer alternative calendars if it is determined by July 20 that fall sports may not start as scheduled due to ongoing public health and safety concerns.
A season ago, the Miners football team went 5-6 overall and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Bruins are coming off an 8-4 season in which they made the playoffs for the third straight season.
“It’s nice to be here,” said Sparks. “I’m so fortunate to have a superintendent, principal, athletic director and assistant superintendent who are advocating for us.”
To contact staff writer Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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