The announcement by Gov. John Bel Edwards that the state would move to Phase Two on Friday as Louisiana continues to deal with the ongoing coronavirus came as welcome news to area high school coaches.
With the announcement, schools will be able to hit the target date of June 8 to begin workouts as set by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
Although the June 8 date had been established several weeks ago by the LHSAA, it remained fluid until the announcement by the governor that the state was indeed moving to Phase Two.
“It’s good to finally have a concrete date,” said Hahnville coach Daniel Luquet. “We sat down as a district and school and came up with a plan. We will try to do like everybody else and take the weight room outside and do certain things.”
“The main thing is the safety of the children,” Destrehan coach Marcus Scott said. “Whatever is in the best interest of the kids and for the citizens or our nation is what we should be focused on. If the experts believe that we are in good shape and we can move forward, then we can go in that (Phase Two). If there is any question, we should just do what’s best and just err on the side of caution.
“We have a plan. We have been preparing. Since we have the green light, we will have everything structured and ready to follow the guidelines.”
Like Luquet, Scott is a first-year head coach at his school. Both welcome getting together with their players after missing out on spring practice and offseason work as the entire state as dealing with school closures and shelter-in-place orders while dealing with the coronavirus.
“The sooner the better,” Scott said of getting back to the task of coaching football. “The only good thing about it is everybody is in the same boat. As a coach, you always feel like you have to get to work because you don’t want anyone to get an advantage on you. In this situation, we are all in the same boat.”
Unlike Scott, who moved from John Ehret to Destrehan, Luquet is more familiar with his players after serving as Hahnville’s offensive coordinator a year ago.
“Knowing the kids is certainly something that is good. The familiarity is good,” said Luquet. “I think the hardest thing we are going to have to deal with is these kids haven’t seen each other in three months. Just like we (the coaches) haven’t seen them, they haven’t seen us, but they haven’t seen each other. To continue to maintain social distancing at six feet and doing that (over the course of entire day) will be a challenge.”
Familiarity with his players is not a factor for veteran St. Charles Catholic coach Frank Monica. Heading into Year No. 51 in coaching, Monica has seen generations of players walk in and out of school doorways.
Like the other coaches, Monica is anxious to get his players back on school grounds.
“I think that is going to help us in terms of them at least returning to campus,” said Monica. “We lost a lot of time in terms of development of their strength and that’s what I’m really worried about. In football, you really need that strength level.
“We haven’t been able to do that (lift weights). Some kids have because they have the facilities to do it and some can go to a spa but some of our kids can’t. I’ve run into some of our players and I’ve not seen any development in them so I hope we can do something within the next six weeks. Our weight program is about a seven-week program.”
From dealing with 24-to-1 coach-to-athletes ratios, continued social distancing and increased sanitation methods, it won’t quite be a making-up-for-lost time scenario when coaches and players first get together on Monday.
“In fact, we will do less,” said Monica. “We have wean them into the situation. We will just lift right now. We can’t do any conditioning with them and I don’t like to condition early in the summer anyway because they will lose it by the time you open the season.”
“We are not using weights for the first two weeks,” Luquet explained. “We are not going in our weight room. Basically, it’s putting eyes on the kids you haven’t seen in two months. But really, it’s assessing what they have been able to do at the house to train, run, work out, whatever.
“You don’t want to bring these kids back too fast and then they hurt themselves and they are then not able to do what it is you are trying to do in the long run, which is play football.”
It definitely won’t be a normal first day on Monday.
“You have to organize your groups and you have to have a process in which the kids are being checked in. Once they are checked in, they have to be able to stay with the same group and make sure that they bring their hydration with them and we are going to make sure the kids have groups and number and they have to do everything from their cone, which is going to be numbered. We have a process and we have to make sure we stay within the guidelines,” said Scott.