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Sheldon, Churchill kick off football practice as other programs have mixed feelings

Oregon high school athletic programs have been given the opportunity to participate in voluntary workouts while using the proper precautions. KEZI 9 News spoke to local football programs about the details of their return to the field.

Posted: Jul 14, 2020 7:09 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The month of July is one of the most crucial training periods for a football program. Workouts during this time mold players for the brunt workload of a season. During a global health crisis, however, the blueprint for training camp is thrown out the window.

This week Sheldon and Churchill were among a number of schools to return to the practice field, while other programs chose to be more conservative.

“The last two weeks have been extremely difficult for our coaching staff, especially for me,” said South Eugene football coach Kenny Koberstein. “My wife is giving me a hard time because our garage has never been cleaner. I basically just go out there and pace.”

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding this upcoming football season. For high school coaches, a lot of that tension falls on their shoulders. Do they practice now with safety precautions? Or wait out the pandemic? It's not an easy decision by any means.

“We miss our kids like crazy. I think now more than ever, kids really need coaches,” said Koberstein. “But at the same time, as an educator and as a coach, we have a responsibility to make sure that our kids are safe and that our families are safe.”

KEZI talked to Thurston head coach Justin Starck, who's also held off on practice until future notice.

“The kids really feel invincible,” said Starck. “We, as coaches, have to be the voice of reason and we have to be the conservative ones. Unfortunately, that’s just no fun.”

The Sheldon Irish, on the other hand, are back to work. It just looks a lot different. All fall athletic programs, including football, break their teams up into pods of 10 players. Those limited groupings wear masks during workouts, get their temperature taken daily and bring their own water bottle.

“Well it was a little bit different but we did mostly the same drills that we’ve done before,” said Sheldon senior quarterback Larson Helikson. “You still got the same amount of work done. Just in a different way.”

Churchill head coach AJ Robinson said it's been nice to be back to a routine, even if some changes have had to be made.

“It’s been really nice to have somewhere to go each morning and be able to share time with people that you care about even though it’s in a socially distant environment,” said Churchill head coach AJ Robinson.

With so much uncertainty surrounding sports, especially at the high school level, there’s talk of pushing the fall seasons to the spring. KEZI 9 News asked players and coaches hypothetically if they were for or against the idea.

"I'd be on board for anything to get me out on the field, to be honest,” said Helikson. “I don't really care how it happens. I just want to play some football."

"I know there's a lot of different contingency plans and there's a lot of logistics that go into all of those things. So no decision is going to be universally loved or supported,” Robinson said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20224

Reported Deaths: 339
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