COLUMBUS (WCMH) — While many schools got back out on the football field this week for their first practices in months, teams in the Columbus City School district are still locked in limbo.
Walnut Ridge head coach Byron Mattox said he’s concerned about other teams getting a head start.
“We start out with two OCC schools and they’re getting started or have already gotten started,” he said. “So, there’s a concern there but it’s early. It’s June. If it was August or even late July, I’d be a little concerned but I think we’ll be okay.”
Mattox said he understands the delay because COVID-19 is a real issue.
And while he and his staff are waiting, they are working to put a health plan in place.
“Safety is our number one concern. I know families and parents are very concerned about that and we are as well,” Mattox said.
Mattox’s concerns go beyond keeping his players physically healthy. With the protests that have been the country’s focus for the past two weeks, he wants to make sure his players’ mental and emotional health is taken care of as well. That makes getting back to face-to-face interaction vitally important.
“Our big thing when we get back is not going to be necessarily about running or lifting weights or whatever, it’s going to be some good conversations and seeing where people are at, what they’ve been going through, how we can help them, and then move forward with that,” Mattox explained. “It’s super hard. I mean, I sent an email out to our families and players yesterday and it’s just a matter of, we’re used to being engaged and seeing those guys daily and we haven’t really seen them since March and just have those conversations.”
Coaches across the state may be reaching out and helping more players than usual this year.
The OHSAA announced last week all students entering grades 7-12 this fall will be academically eligible for athletics.
“We were in a meeting yesterday and I said we could have anywhere from 20 kids come out to 100,” Mattox said with a smile. “I’m thinking we can probably go up at least 20 or 25 percent in numbers.”
That kind of increase can put a strain on a program needing more equipment and resources. Mattox said he sees it as more of an opportunity and a chance for him and his staff to touch more lives and shape more young people for the better.
“It would be great because I always feel the more kids you get out, the more kids you come in contact with daily, kids grades are better typically when they are involved in activities,” he explained. “If you can get those guys hooked in for 10, 11, 12 weeks however many, then they can move on and kind of have a foundation with what they’re supposed to be doing academically and just continue to get better as the school year goes on.”
Mattox said he hasn’t been giving his players workouts to do from home. He said they can find stuff on YouTube that’s better than anything he can suggest, but he has been encouraging them to be active and not get bogged down inside staring at screens.
“If you stay in and you’re watching the news and watching all the reports or on Twitter or whatever, you could really be scared in a lot of ways so my thing is get outside!” he said. “You need the Vitamin D. You need the sun. You need it. That’ll help your immune system anyway so that’s my big message. Get outside and do stuff. When they give us the green light, it’s time to go. We’ll be ready.”