This time last year, area high school football players were traveling to Burnet each Monday to compete in the Bulldogs’ 7-on-7 league.
Burnet was preparing to host a 7-on-7 state-qualifying tournament, and the Marble Falls Mustangs were learning the basics of the slot-T offense under newly hired head coach Brian Herman.
But in the spring of 2020, everyone has been adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students are taking online classes to finish out the school year since Gov. Greg Abbott canceled in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
All extracurricular activities, including spring football and 7-on-7 of any kind, have been canceled, and coaches have been meeting virtually as they await guidelines from the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of extracurricular activities at public schools in the state, to know if and when they’ll be able to host summer strength-and-conditioning sessions on school campuses.
“We know they’re going to loosen some of the restrictions,” Burnet head coach Jerod Rye said. “We just don’t know how.”
“They’re waiting for the governor’s direction,” Herman said. “It’ll have a trickledown effect. It’s somewhat of a waiting game. Our superintendent (Dr. Chris Allen) said we got into this business to work with kids. This is the toughest time in our profession. I’m at the office right now, and it’s a ghost town. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We want to reconvene and meet back together and foster those relationships.”
On Monday, May 18, Abbott announced he would allow youth sports leagues to begin practicing May 31 with restrictions. Youth leagues can begin holding games and competitions June 15.
Knowing the UIL guidelines, especially for the summer, are important as coaches want their players to show up for fall training camps in August in shape.
“I think it’s going to be critical,” Rye said of knowing what programs can and can’t do. “You’re using every second to get better. There can be no downtime cause you’re catching up on all the stuff you didn’t feel like you could do this spring. Organizing summer workouts are more important now than ever.”
Both head coaches text players to encourage and uplift them. And both programs hold weekly coaches meetings. The coaches also hold virtual meetings with athletes. The players and coaches do scheme work, break down film, and talk about why plays work or don’t work.
Coaches also text workouts to players, who are responsible for doing them. The student-athletes often reach out to teammates and work out together.
“It’s unstructured, but they’re staying active and being around each other,” Rye said. “I can feel good about that. They care enough to be around each other and stay active.”
“That’s part of good leadership,” Herman said.
The meetings even trickle down to the middle school level as some of those youths sit in on the virtual meetings.
Some terminology may be new to the middle school players, but they are getting an introduction, and that’s good, Rye said.
“Some talk goes above their heads, but they can hear enough of it,” he said. “It’s been neat to see.”
At Marble Falls, middle school players are concentrating more on overall fitness than on attending meetings.
The 2020 season is expected to kick off Friday, August 28. Burnet is hosting Leander Rouse, while Marble Falls travels to Kyle Lehman.