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Two months from season, high school football coaches suggest strategies to keep games on

One proposed mitigation strategy was reducing quarter length from 12 minutes to 10.
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 5:43 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - With less than two months until the first scheduled high school football games in Virginia, local coaches are working now to solve potential problems before they come up.

“This is my 21st year of education, and I’ve seen things in kids this year, from anxiety to depression,” said Lord Botetourt head coach Jamie Harless. “A lot of them seem very lifeless.”

Harless is one of those coaches searching for ways to get back on the field, partly by looking at how high schools in other states handled the return to competition in the fall.

In Wisconsin, a survey of schools representing more than 30,000 student-athletes showed there were 271 positive COVID-19 cases across all sports in the month of September.

209 of those cases could be connected to a source and, of those, only one was attributed to participation in sports.

Pulaski County head coach Mark Dixon said that surprised him.

“I do think we all have to educate ourselves and be aware of ways we can try, if possible like I’ve said, to get these kids—and I’m talking everybody, the drama club, the band—give all of these kids an opportunity to participate in high school, things they’ve dreamed of doing, if we can do it,” said Dixon.

One mitigation strategy Harless proposed to the Virginia High School League was reducing quarter length from 12 minutes to 10.

The VHSL said it already has mitigation strategies in place, but that it might consider others if further changes to those strategies are needed.

A six-game regular season is still set to begin the week of February 22.

In the meantime, Harless said he worries about his students’ mental health if they can’t find a safe path back to competition.

“I don’t want anybody to die,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to get sick from this thing or have lifelong repercussions from it. But, at some point, we’ve got to start looking at what are the possibilities that kids are having anxiety and depression and mental health problems so bad that we lose kids to suicide.”

“This is above our pay grade, and there’s got to be a bigger picture view, and we all understand that. We do,” said Dixon. “I just worry about the kids because we’re around them every day. When I’m around the kids, there’s an impact from all of this, from not being here, and I think that probably needs to be out there more, the kids’ point of view in all of this.”

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