Iowa City high school football programs adapting to changes amid COVID-19

High school football practices are scheduled to start on August 10.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Joseph Cress

City and West players warmup before a 4A varsity high school football game between Iowa City High and West High at Bates Field in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, high school football coaches and student-athletes around the country have been wondering what their fall seasons are going to look like.

Many high schools are considering a hybrid or online-only start to the school year, which would have a significant impact on fall sports.

The Iowa City Community School District originally announced that it was going to start all schools in the district online through at least Oct.1, but had to reevaluate after Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered schools to prioritize in-person learning this fall.

The ICCSD is planning on applying for a waiver from the state in order to bypass the in-person instruction requirement.

Iowa City West High School football coach Garrett Hartwig is in favor of starting classes online, saying that virtual learning could make football more of a possibility.

“Similar to baseball in the summer, the only students on campus through September will be athletes,” Hartwig said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “The ‘bubble’ and amount of people athletes contact is significantly smaller without the general student population in the buildings daily. [Having online classes] will help us to maintain safety and contact tracing more efficiently because 1,200 other people will not be in the building.”

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As of now, the Iowa High School Athletic Association plans to start all fall sports on time. But, as with many plans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that is subject to change.

According to a statement by the ISHAA, the association will “work with partners and the Iowa state government to develop protocols and sport-specific guidance and will adjust as necessary.”

Practices for football, cross country, and golf are scheduled to start on Aug. 10, and the ISHAA plans to release safety guidelines for those sports on July 27.

When football practices start again, coaches will be increasing safety and sanitation measures.

Hartwig will conduct small-group activities with the same players during practices every day, and the team will conduct daily screenings of players and coaches as they come into practice. Players must wear masks when they are inside, and facilities will only be used at half capacity. All equipment will be sanitized regularly, and players won’t be allowed to share water bottles.

The West coaches will try to follow social distancing recommendations as much as possible during practices and games, but Hartwig says that “in the end, it is football and contact will be there.”

RELATED: ICCSD at square one, unsure what fall instruction will entail

If a player or coach does test positive for COVID-19, the school will follow isolation guidelines and do extensive contact tracing.

Some schools in warmer areas around the country have pushed their seasons to later in the year. California recently announced that high schools in the state will not start their fall seasons until at least December or January, and Texas schools are staggering the start dates of the seasons by conference.

But due to a colder winter climate, Iowa high school football does not have that luxury. For outdoor sports, the seasons will need to be in the fall or the spring.

Pushing fall sports to the spring is an option, but coaches worry it could cause congestion with sports that use the same facilities in different seasons, as well as force student-athletes who play multiple sports or plan to graduate early to join their college team to choose.

Although it’s not ideal, moving the football season to spring is something that the coaches would consider.

“I would be in favor of a switch of schedules as a last resort,” Iowa City High football coach Dan Sabers said. “But it is my hope that there are sports for all this year.”

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