When the Central High Red Devil football team stepped on the practice field earlier this week, the squad entered a new challenge – how to follow state and national guidelines concerning COVID-19. No, according to Central coach Patrick Nix, it was not football as usual.
“We are taking precautions that are best for our players and for our community when these guys go home after practice. We are wearing masks and practicing social distancing as required. Having the kids stay six-feet apart is something we have to be aware of at all times. We don’t have all of the one-hundred plus players out on the field at the same time. We have to stagger times so that we can disinfect equipment before the next group comes in. We are doing everything we can possible to protect our players.” Nix said of the beginning of summer practice.
The Red Devils performed all the drills that would normally be done during the summer months and lifted weights.
While Monday was the first day practice was allowed, Nix says he stayed in contact with the players during Governor Kay Ivey’s Stay-at-Home ordered quarantine. Players worked out on their own as best they could and watched a lot of video in preparation for the 2020 high school football season.
Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese said his organization was working as if there was no doubt the 2020 season would be played without any delays. Nix says while that may be true of the AHSAA, it is not the approach being taken here during the early days of summer practice.
“It is not exactly full-speed ahead right now. If it were full-speed ahead, we would not be taking the precautions we are taking. These are not going to be usual summer workouts. It is not what you expect. It is not typical football. We are going through a very in-depth procedure to protect the kids. We are following a long list of guidelines to make sure we are being right by our kids and the community. A whole lot of things we’re doing are not football. And, again, the things we are doing are football in this day and time. Things change and you have to adjust to the changes to be winners,” Nix said.
Nix, who accepted the position of coach for the Red Devils in January following Jamey DuBose’s retirement from coaching in Alabama, managed to get a full staff together before the shutdown of the local school system due to the coronavirus. He also had the opportunity to meet his future players and begin evaluations.
“We have been doing evaluations of the players all along. We will continue to evaluate the kids as we go through the summer practices and even from Week 1 to Week 14 of the season. It never stops until they graduate. You evaluate a kid from the time her steps on campus as a Freshman until he graduates as a Senior. Kids during this time of life change rapidly. They change from year to year, but they also can change from fall to spring and then from spring to summer. The cycle does not end. Kids get bigger. Some get stronger and faster. Their position one year might not be their position the next year,” Nix said.
Central’s players will be going through summer practices four days a week at the beginning. From there, Nix says he does not know what to expect until he can see how the players respond to the practices.
“The most important thing is the safety of the kids. We want to see them get their bodies ready for the upcoming season. We have gotten a lot done during the shutdown, but it has not been the physical activity you expect in football. Now is the time we will be working on that aspect of the game,” Nix said.
Nix is happy to be able to get the players out to practice during the summer.
“Any day you get to be out there with the kids is a great day. It is great to be back together like football is intended to be. Football is a team sport. The success of a team relies on how well the players work together. We are excited to be back together on the field. We just want to make sure when we are doing things, we are doing them right and to be careful of how we do things,” Nix said.
Central opens the 2020 season at home on August 21 at Garrett-Harrison Stadium against Peach County, Ga.