Coaches throughout Montana are moving forward in anticipation of sports practices beginning on August 14. With a noticeable question mark of fall sports start-up dates due to COVID-19, however, a cloud of uncertainty hovers over practice fields across the Big Sky state.
Fairview High School Head Football Coach Levi Seitz stated: “We might have to make some adjustments as we get more information.”
“Our players are very motivated and have been in the weight room trying to do everything they can to defend our title,” he added with a tone of optimism winning coaches are known for.
Sidney High School Activities Director Chris Lee is equally hopeful and optimistic the school will have athletic activities available to students in the fall. The Sidney school district is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, Lee said.
Lambert High School is assessing its facilities. School leaders informed the Sidney Herald they are examining procedures they can take to ensure better social distancing, such as having fewer people standing in lines and ramping up existing disinfecting routines.
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases steadily rise in over half of the states in the United States, the Montana High School Association (MHSA) is working on a “tiered system” in case COVID-19 throws a wrench into the fall sports plans.
MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman told NBC Montana, “We want to have the most comprehensive plan available so that if this does happen, we can go here. If this happens, we’ll go here. Or if this happens, we’ll do this. We are trying to cover all of our bases.”
MHSA is hoping to have the system finalized and ready to implement by mid-July, it was announced.
On May 28, 2020, the MHSA Reopening Sports/Activities Summer Guidance was released. It states, “MHSA summer rules allow for coaches to coach their own players from June 1–July 31; however, that participation cannot be mandated. One team vs. another team scrimmage is allowed (no tournament or round robin play) during this time with both schools approving and, of course, with approval of that format from the local health department.”
Lambert Schools Athletic Director Kara Triplett stated: “We did go to the DCC tournament, which was awesome to be allowed to play other teams. We would really like to get a few scrimmage games against local HS teams in July, if possible. Our Board will allow it at this point, but so far, no takers!”
One primary reason other coaches may seem reluctant to accept scrimmage invitations is out of concern for their players.
The health of players and students is of the utmost importance to each of the athletic directors and coaches the Sidney Herald reached out to. As just one example of precautions taken this year: players are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and not to share those water bottles or towels with teammates.
Sidney High School (SHS) track and cross-country coaches Stacey and Justin Collins have been conducting speed training for students on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
“Other teams have been running optional summer practices that are open to any Sidney High School student,” Lee stated. “Interested students can contact specific head coaches or myself for more details. Any current SHS student who wants [access to] the weight room is encouraged to contact Coach Hoffman to get on the list.”
Lee’s statement sums up well the status of fall high school sports in July 2020: Wait and see.