Along The Way With Coaches Pam & Doc Chapman
When I decided to write a story about high school sports in a Covid 19 world, I knew I would have to speak with those who are a big part of that question, coaches. For many of us during this difficult time, we have begun to return to our lives mindful of the virus and its possible presence around us. We take common since precautions for family and ourselves. But for a coach, that question extends beyond their families to the athletes they will train this season.
All of the fall sports have been given guidelines to allow athletes to begin the summer conditioning process. This process is made up of three different levels. When I conducted the interviews for this column, teams were still in phase 1. This phase deals with improving an athlete’s physical condition. During this phase, physical contact or working with game balls is not permitted. In the second phase, coaches begin working with athletes in weight rooms for strength training. Also in this phase, players can begin working with game balls. The third phase allows drills to be run and more time improving skills while still going into the weight room. During the course of these three phases, a coach will work with a pod made up of ten players. Movement between pods is not permitted.
Fortunately, two coaches whom I have known for several years made time in their busy lives to talk with me for this story. It made it a little easier to interview the two of them since they are husband and wife. Coach Pam Chapman has 34 years of education experience. She also has been a coach for 32 of those years. Coach Dave (Doc) Chapman has worked as an educator for 32 years and 30 of those years he has also coached sports. Between the two of them, they have a combined 62 years of coaching knowledge. During their careers, they both have experienced the satisfaction of leading teams to state championships. They also have experienced seasons when victories were difficult to be had, with no post season playoffs.
Given all they have experienced, the new challenges they will have to face in the 2020 season may be the biggest they will ever have as coaches and educators. In a time, when any physical contact is being discouraged, how do you prepare teams to begin the fall season where athletes will undoubtedly make contact with other players?
Coach Pam talked about how in today’s high school sports world, volleyball has become highly competitive. To compete volleyball players must improve physical strength while constantly working on game abilities. Preseason preparing is essential to sharpen each player’s skills during this time. Coaches work with them to improve those skills. But now, they must adjust training routines to include covid-19 guidelines. In physical sports that is a major challenge. I could sense she felt frustration as she explained how Covid 19 guidelines can change daily.
Coach Doc talked about the number of players that turned out for his team. Over the many years he has coached, he has experienced the number of players decrease. He attributed some decline to the possibility of injuries. A player with a concussion may not show any effects for years. He also realizes more fall sports have given athletes other options. Doc conveyed he realizes possible exposure to the virus may be a factor in the number of players that may not have come out for all fall sports. Both Doc and Pam questioned how they will deal with safety concerns when players begin to handle game balls in phase 2. Doc pointed out that he will have some players passing the ball, while others will be on the receiving end. He may have as many as five separate groups running these drills at one time. He wondered if between each pass and reception will the ball have to be sanitized. Coach Pam expressed the same concern. She pointed out they may have several balls in play with some drills. Both wondered about sanitizing them and how will it affect the ball’s condition with repeated cleaning.
Both Doc and Pam wondered, how can they as coaches, fully protect their athletes when they are engaged in a contact sport while protecting them in a contact disease situation. Doc, commented that football is a hard contact sport, you can’t have people tip toeing around and playing the game.
Doc expressed one concern that went beyond players. He wondered about game officials. Will they be at increased risk when officiating a contact sport? Hearing Doc’s question, I wondered about cheerleaders and band members. During the course of a football season they may come in close proximity of players, coaches and even spectators. Many high school sporting events have more than just the players in the vicinity of the sporting venue.
Next came the big question, will spectators be allowed in the stands? Will the game be played with just the teams and coaches allowed near or onto the areas of play? Maybe only parents will be allowed. Or perhaps, the bleachers will be given designated seating with six foot spacing. Will the people working the concession stands have to wear masks and gloves? Or maybe their won’t even be any food concessions this year.
The above concerns also raises financial questions. If there is no revenue from attendance or moneys made from concessions by the boosters, how will that affect financial income for the athletic programs? Those incomes help with uniforms and improvement to the sporting venues. Maintaining playing fields and up grading equipment is a major cost that is sometimes offset by revenues collected at games.
Next I asked, will athletes, coaches, managers, officials, cheerleaders, band members and anyone associated with the teams have to be tested before they can be part of the program? Also, will all those same people have to sign waivers before they are allowed to participate? If spectators are allowed into the game will each person have their temperature taken?
If their temperature is higher than normal, will they be turned away? And will everyone at a game be expected to wear a mask, including players? The answers to these questions at the time of my interview have not been determined.
I have spoken with a few coaches in the local area also looking for answers to these questions. After all, coaches are the line between the athletes and what is expected to be done to have their safety front and foremost. And I know the coaches I have spoken with, understand they have been given that challenge. I am sure guidance from school administration, WVSSAC, Health Department and the CDC will soon be in place to help with their challenge.
Finally, I ask Coach Pam if the 2020 pandemic will forever change the world of sports. “I don’t know I would say forever, but I can say it’s going to change for the next couple of years.”
Next I posed the same question to Doc. “It is definitely going to change within the next year or two until they get a vaccine and people feel they can go back to, as we say ‘life as we use to remember it being’. But for now the normalcy is not going to be for a while, as we knew it prior to March.”
Talking with both Pam and Doc I got a sense of their personal dedication. Dedicated first to keeping their athletes safe and then coaching them secondly. They know the rule books for their sports. But the rule book for the coronavirus is still being written. Neither coach will shy away from working hard to put together the best team they can. But, I realize the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus will be with them for the foreseeable future. I want to thank them both for taking the time to speak with me candidly about this most difficult time in their coaching careers. Let’s hope fall sports return and the championship trophy this year will be for everyone staying healthy as we look Through the Lens.