Football continues preparing for upcoming season

Practicing during this pandemic has not been an easy task, but with the precautions put in place by the school board and the Virginia High School League, athletes have been able to practice. The football team started their gatherings over the summer and has been taking certain steps to ensure the safety of the players while still preparing for the season.

“When we first started practicing again in mid-July, we had to temperature check when everyone arrived and they had to answer a series of questions about if they have any symptoms,” Coach Matt Reidenbaugh said. “Once they are clear they have to wash their hands in the bathroom which has a limit on how many people are allowed in there. Then when they did that, they were allowed to go on the field, but they have to wear a mask.”

Practices and workouts have definitely changed since last year. Last year, athletes could practice with masks and practice as a full team. The restrictions started over the summer and have increased as the COVID-19 numbers rose.

“Our players have to bring their own water and have to stay 10 feet apart for social distancing,” Reidenbaugh said. “In the beginning we weren’t allowed to have any equipment, so no footballs. We also weren’t allowed to lift at the start. As we went through the weeks our players were to bring one piece of equipment from home like a football or dumbbell.”

Weightlifting is a big part of the offseason of high school football, especially this year. The weight room is where the players get stronger. This year the format and rules were different but that didn’t change the mentality of the team. This year, athletes are not allowed to work out with a partner, so they can’t have a spotter which is really important with the player’s safety.

“When we are in the weight room anytime a player touches a weight or a bar, a coach has to go over to them and spray and wipe down the bar before the next person can use it,” Reidenbaugh said.

The Loudoun County football team has overcome challenges, adjusting to the rules so that they can practice and get ready for the season.

“Probably the biggest challenge for us was they wanted us to stay in pods of 10 people while we worked out and practiced,” Reidenbaugh said. “We broke up our guys into groups based on position so the wide receivers were a pod, the running backs were a pod, and the defensive and offensive lines were a pod. This wasn’t too bad because all the positions usually practiced together anyway.”

Masks were another challenge the players faced. “Since they were moving around all the time and breathing heavily it was sometimes hard to breathe,” Reidenbaugh said.

“The players all had good attitudes towards these rules because they were willing to comply with any rule if it meant that they could practice and eventually play the game they love,” Reidenbaugh said.

The biggest element of this COVID season that high school sports has to face is the constant change in plans and regulations whether it’s for the season or restrictions for practices or weightlifting.

“For us it is the weekly changes of the protocols and the expectations for me as the head coach,” Reidenbaugh said. “My job is to organize everything and plan everything and make sure that our players and coaches are prepared, but when everything is changing it’s really hard to do that because the rules could change next week or even the next day.”

With the rules changing often the communication between the Virginia High School League and the schools has to be clear, and that has been improving over the course of the pandemic.

“I think that it has definitely gotten better since the beginning,” Reidenbaugh said. “In the beginning it was a huge challenge for [VHSL] because it is obviously new to all of us. Communication was definitely the biggest challenge in the beginning with keeping people in the loop about what is going on. Since they have done a great job keeping us safe and informing the coaches, players, and parents.”

The pandemic has shortened football’s season, which just intensifies every game like no other season has done before.

“For our team it is a huge point of emphasis and again we just try to take it one game at a time,” Reidenbaugh said. “The beauty of it, though, is everyone plays the same schedule as us.” This year, there are seven teams and six games. “So everyone plays everyone, which means we can’t lose as many games and each game will be under a microscope,” Reidenbaugh said. “My message to the team has been that we know that if we want to be the best, we have to beat the best and we play Broad Run first, who is a really good football team.”