With recent spikes in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state, Monday’s announcement by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards that the state would not move to Phase Three came as not much of a surprise.
What was surprising to high school athletic administrators and coaches was the governor announced Phase Two would be extended to 28 days, stretching to at least July 27.
“I think now that it’s basically extended for another month is a little shocking,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s athletic director and head football coach.
“I was worried about that when I saw the ‘so-called’ numbers were starting to spike. I don’t understand if those numbers are legitimate or not. That’s not for me to say, but that’s what they are saying,” said Frank Monica, St. Charles Catholic’s athletic and head football coach.
Considering events taking place in this country and around the world, Robert Valdez, St. James’ athletic director and head football coach, said he can understand the governor’s decision.
“I agree with him,” said Valdez. “I think that with as we open the country and all that, a lot of people have basically wanted to go on with the status quo of their daily routine. This COVID 19 is an invisible enemy that we don’t really understand.
“To be able to try and limit as much as possible social attraction and the potential spread, I’m OK with that.”
Still, the decision brings with it some issues involving the sports world.
“What concerns me is when does Phase Three start and how do we go from this to tackle football?” said Monica. “I was hoping he (Edwards) would open it up to Phase Three and let us do a little bit of football. It seems like football is the one that is being singled out here.
“I know travel baseball is having tournaments all over the country. People are doing it and there are no restrictions but when it comes to football, we’re the ones who have all the restrictions, and I guess, rightfully so.”
There is no telling when Edwards may trigger Phase Three or how long that period will last. That has lessened the degree of enthusiasm that schools and prep athletics will begin as scheduled.
“I guess I look at it with the optimism or at least the state of mind that we now know that the chance of getting off to a normal start in August are probably not so realistic right now,” said Jenkins.
“I’m hoping we can have a season. I was very optimistic early but now I am not as optimistic at starting the season on time,” Monica said.
The one silver lining now that the announcement has been made that Phase Two will last through at least the end of July gives athletic administrators an opportunity to prepare for the future, no matter how uncertain, according to Jenkins.
“With that information coming out today and the LHSAA Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday of this week, I think you can now start seeing some realistic plans and ideas being discussed at that meeting for what would be some alternatives of this thing not starting on time or on schedule or if there will be any adjustments to an athletic calendar based on this idea that maybe school won’t be the ideal start,” Jenkins said.
A number of proposals are likely to enhances, including anything from the cancellation of scrimmages and jamborees to buy schools extra time to prepare for the season to a shortened regular season, among a number of options.
“I think it needs to be looked at whether we can push it (the regular season) back a little bit,” said Monica. “There were some hurricane years where we had to push the season back or we lost a game or two. With hurricanes or flooding, we’ve had that happen.
“We might lose a couple of ball games but at least you keep the season intact. There is so much depending on this. Other than the fact the kids need it, there is so much depending on this such as vendors. This really impacts our economy tremendously.”
Staying at Phase Two, Valdez said, at least allows athletic teams to continue their current activities.
“It will not totally disrupt our work. I think we have a pretty good system in place at St. James High School and as long as our kids are coming to work out and not showing any signs or having any positive tests, we can keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Valdez said.