The howling crowds of a South Brunswick football game won’t be as loud this year as in the past.
Football, like many other aspects of the SBHS, has been greatly affected by the COVID-19. Not only are football games limited in capacity, but the number of games, practices, and scouting opportunities have been pushed back because of the ongoing pandemic.
Football players and coaches alike were ecstatic when the news was given that fall sports would be allowed to practice once again in July. Amid the pandemic, for them it was a miracle of sorts to have it back.
“I think sports, especially fall sports, are very possible right now because of the outdoor element. Any indoor fall sport has been cancelled,” said head football coach Mr. John Viotto.
The New York Times reported that someone indoors is 20 times as likely to contract the virus than someone outdoors. Outdoor gatherings, such as sports practices, have a lower risk because the wind can disperse “viral droplets”, and the sun is able to kill some of the virus.
However, both indoor and outdoor gatherings still hold risks, so school sports needed a plan in order to ensure as much safety for their players as possible. South Brunswick, like many other districts, adopted the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletics Association (NJSIAA) guidelines, divided up into different phases.
Phase 1 started football and other sports in July. Athletes could only participate in small groups, have one workout a day for an hour and a half at most, and use no sports equipment. The phase focused more on conditioning and finding out if bringing students back would even be possible.
Phase 2 allowed for students to start practicing in larger groups and work with equipment again.
Phase 3 also increased student group sizes. After these phases, all students are allowed to have normal practices, in addition to daily temperature checks and mask requirements.
While practices may seem normal again, football games this year will be drastically different. According to Coach Viotto, football players will not be able to complete their traditional pre-game run from the locker rooms. There will no longer be a half-time show either.
Arguably the largest drawback for football games is the lack of audience. The maximum capacity for football games this year will be 500 people, including players from both teams and cheerleaders. Football players will be allowed to give out two tickets each.
Seniors Ahmad Alkiani and Justin Lawson reminisced about having large crowds at football games.
“[During] our blackout game, I looked into the stands and almost every person was wearing black. It was kind of amazing to see,” said Lawson.
Although there have been many drastic changes due to the pandemic, coaches and players alike are thankful for the opportunity to even have their sport back in session. Every second athletes get to play is a miracle of its own.
Coach Viotto also pointed out that for students, anything close to normalcy during the COVID pandemic was a step in the right direction. For most athletes, sports are a huge part of their lives.
“To me football is like a family to me, it's like my second home. I'm either at home or at the football field,” said Alkilani.
SBHS football has been affected by COVID in various ways, in the number of people attending football games and in the procedures. However, even with all of these obstacles, each game and practice has been filled with opportunity, dedication, and a team that's grown into a united family here at SBHS.