EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – When the University Interscholastic League [UIL] made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of winter and spring sports last month due to COVID-19, the question on everyone’s mind became if and when we will see fall sports in 2020. High school football is king in Texas, but there is more questions than answers on how to safely return to the field.
“We are depending on guidance from the UIL, TEA [Texas Education Agency], and the Governor,” said El Paso Independent School District Athletic Director Maria Kennedy. “We want what’s going to be best for all of us.”
While the fear circles around the coronavirus pandemic, coaches across the city have another set of fears when it comes to the health and safety of their players – preparation. Football is a demanding sport that requires a high level of physical readiness.
“That’s the biggest concern – are we going to have enough time to get these kids’ bodies ready for the physicality of football,” said Eastwood head football coach Julio Lopez. “What you’re scared of is those soft tissue injuries. You’re looking at tendons and major ligaments like the ACL and MCL. In a normal year, you’re trying to get kids bigger faster stronger, but this year we’re just trying to get these kids’ bodies ready to play.”
Throughout the ‘stay-at-home order’ in El Paso County, football programs have been posting their workout regimens on social media. What activities to do, how long to do them, and how to stay ready when football returns. In turn, student-athletes have been posting their videos on the progress they have made at home.
“We have workouts that our coaches send out daily for our players,” said Pebble Hills head football coach Mark Torres. “We ask that they post their results. We do ask for data to ensure they’re putting in the work.”
Most football coaches are planners. They like to have a plan and a backup plan for everything that transpires in their program. But during a pandemic, there is very little coaches can control right now, which is why their organizational skills are being put to the test.
“If you’re being deliberate about it, you roll things out the proper way and you’re not having to change things from day-to-day, I think the people that are following you and the people that you are leading are going to appreciate it much better,” said Americas head football coach Patrick Melton. “If you put the kids first, you’re never going to go wrong.”
There are four high schools in the city that are breaking in new head coaches – Chapin, El Paso High, Anthony, and San Elizario. For some of these coaches, they are implementing virtual workout programs without having met their players in-person.
“We all have to now learn how kids communicate through social media and all these different outlets,” said new El Paso High head football coach Ray Aguilar Jr. “We have to become accustomed to it.”
“We’ve tried all sorts of meetings online and we are trying to reach them through a bunch of different apps,” said Chapin’s newest head football coach Ryan Warner. “We’re trying to communicate with the kids and just try and make sure they are following the regiment that we are setting out for them.”
Just 16 Friday’s remain before the scheduled start of the high school football season. The future is unclear, but the coaches know it is what they are doing right now while nobody is watching that will become clear as day when the lights turn on.