Are you ready for some football? AIA gives OK to start fall sports

The Arizona Interscholastic Association gave the OK to football and other fall sports after the executive committee accepted the updated Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s return-to-play guidelines. (File photo by Cassidy McCauley/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – High school football is back.

The Executive Board of the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted Wednesday to endorse the latest guidelines proposed by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for the safe implementation of a return to sport and activity.

Football, as well as other fall sports, will continue as scheduled.

Football can begin practice Monday and competition can start Sept. 30.

Before the announcement was made, first year coach Kerry Taylor of San Tan Charter School said he has tried his best to keep his players focused.

“We don’t focus on the pandemic, we don’t focus on whether we’re playing or not, we focus on showing up here every day and playing hard,” Taylor said. “I told the kids since day one that our opportunity is going to come and to be ready when you get your shot. We don’t focus on the outside noise too much, we’re just worrying about ourselves and controlling what we can control.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic has put the sports community in disarray. Professional leagues have had to adjust their schedules and move competition to a “bubble,” where contact is limited to team personnel. The Pac-12 Conference, which include Arizona State and Arizona, has opted not to play this fall.

Fan attendance at high school games will be a local decision, the AIA said. School administrators will determine who will be allowed to attend games based on information from the Arizona Department of Health Services and other sources.

Brophy Prep golf coach Jon Shores said he was confident about the safety measures and finishing the season.

“Based on the AIA protocols that they’ve set out for golf, everything has been going pretty smoothly and kids have been able to social distance pretty well on the golf course and have been pretty good about wearing masks,” Shores said. “Sometimes you have to remind them because they’re just kids, but they’re doing good wearing masks when they’re supposed to.”

Thee AIA has shared recent rules modifications for golf, including mobile scoring, no handshakes, players and spectators leaving the course immediately, no raking of bunkers, no touching of the flagstick and adjustments to warm-ups and size restrictions of invitational tournaments.

Not only did Shores confirm that he was carrying on with practices, tournaments and matches in a safe manner, but acknowledged that safety was a priority.

“I know that if somebody tests positive on our team, it will likely bring an end to our season because our school administration and all school administrations realize that our student-athletes are students first and athletes second,” Shores said. “So being on campus, being in the classroom to learn is more important than what we do on the golf course.”

The concern about coronavirus was a reality for Centennial High School football coach Richard Taylor.

“At the younger levels, we’ve had some kids that decided not to play this year,” Taylor said. “About two or three. At the varsity level, we had some other players that initially when we were allowed to go, they stayed (home) and didn’t come to practices. I think they wanted to see how things were going to be run and that we were going to follow all of the procedures and protocols. I think that once they felt comfortable with that, they showed up.”

Rick Garretson, coach of powerhouse Chandler High School, was focused on his players’ mental health and how important playing football is to them this season.

“Nobody knows kids better than their parents and coaches,” Garretson said before the announcement that the season would continue. “We’re around them sometimes more than their parents are. We’re keeping them mentally fresh and we’re making sure we’re not burning them out before the season starts. I like where our team is mentally, I like where our team is physically, and hopefully we get the green light.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Brandon Jones, a Detroit native who grew up in Seattle, expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a certificate in sales and marketing essentials.