By Rubin E. Grant
Mountain Brook football coach Chris Yeager knows it wasn’t an easy decision and he’s thankful that the Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control approved the AHSAA’s Return to Play ‘Best Practices’ recommended guidelines and reaffirmed plans to start the 2020 football season on time.
The action was taken Wednesday at the Central Board’s annual summer meeting in Montgomery.
“I know it was a very hard decision and they had gotten input,” Yeager said. “I am glad they allowed us to have input, but it’s a lot easier to make suggestions than make decisions.
“We’re going to move forward and trust and respect what’s been done.”
AHSAA fall sports teams will have the option to begin fall workouts on July 27 with the first week used by football for acclimation purposes only with helmets and shorts only. The other fall sports — volleyball, cross country and swimming and diving –- can use the first week for acclimation and tryouts. Schools not choosing that option may start fall practice on August 3.
The first contest can be played August 20.
AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said the organization is trying to provide member schools the tools for a safe return to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The purpose of the Return to Play document is to offer AHSAA member schools best practices in order to commence the 2020-21 school year athletic seasons as scheduled and as safely as possible,” Savarese said.
During an online news conference Thursday to give details about the Best Practice guidelines, Savarese emphasized that it’s a fluid situation.
“Everyone should understand this sports season will not be normal,” he said. “We cannot think in normal terms. Sports could change as we get new health information.
“We are trying to mitigate the exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible. We will not eliminate it. Parents will have to make a personal choice whether to allow their children to participate.”
Some of the best practice modifications announced for football include the team box for players, which will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines; non-helmet face coverings; and timeouts being extended to a maximum of two minutes.
“We’re planning to play a full schedule, but if schools get shut down fall sports will end,” Savarese said.
Yeager said the entire ordeal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been a learning experience, from school closing in March, eliminating spring training, and resuming workouts in June.
“This whole thing has taught me to take whatever you get and make the best of it,” Yeager said. “We’re going to start. I don’t know how long we’ll get, but we’re going to maximize it because I don’t know if on any given day it will be the last chance to be out there with my players.
“We had the best summer we have ever had. We had incredible energy. And when we were shut down, we spent a lot of time with our players on Zoom and phone calls. We texted them every day. I learned more about my players and built deeper relationships. I feel I know them better than any team I’ve had.”
For more information about the AHSAA modifications for fall sports visit:.