The Golden Demons High School football team members had just showed up to their first week of training camp on Aug. 3 when coaches, led by Head Coach Jared Yannacito, huddled their players up.
Yannacito had just received word that high school football in Colorado will kickoff in the spring rather than in the fall because of the pandemic. Some players cried because they were devastated that they wouldn’t get to play in the coming weeks while others saw the season being pushed back as an opportunity to get stronger and better before the spring.
“It was mixed emotions across the board. That’s for my players and coaches,” said Yannacito. “Personally, I was grateful that we have a season. I’m just really glad that the (Colorado High School Activities Association, or CHSAA) didn’t cancel the season and not find a way for us to play.”
Like Golden High School’s football team, other Jeffco Public Schools athletes and coaches are coming to terms with the fact that most high school fall sports won’t happen this year. CHSAA announced on Aug. 4 that high school football, girls’ volleyball, boys’ soccer, field hockey, gymnastics and unified bowling will be played in the spring rather than in the fall. Other sports like cross country, boys’ tennis, boys’ golf and softball will compete in a modified fall schedule.
Joey Mancuso, a senior quarterback for Golden High School, echoed Yannacito saying he’s grateful CHSAA is planning for a spring football season, but admitted being disappointed football won’t happen in 2020. He said he believes the extended offseason will help him better master the team’s playbook and prepare for games.
“The biggest thing is we were disappointed. We were excited to get back, but we realized there are a lot of positives (for having a spring season),” said Mancuso.
“Everything is getting more serious, and the fact that we have (multiple) guys on the field, and we’re playing against different schools — it’s a good thing we’re playing in the spring because of the risk COVID holds during football. My teammates and me were nervous about playing during this outbreak,” he said.
Other Jeffco Public Schools seniors like Stella Bianco, a volleyball player for Arvada West High School, are also adjusting to having some fall sports canceled. Bianco was attending open gym practices twice a week in July at Arvada West and said her and her teammates wore masks when attending practice.
She said she’ll miss the atmosphere of high school volleyball this fall and seeing her classmates in the stands cheering her and her team on.
“With coronavirus, it’s hard to do team bonding and get into that team mindset, because it’s harder to be around people,” said Bianco. “I’ll miss the girls the most. It’s a missed opportunity to bond with those girls and play with the team.”
At Wheat Ridge High School, Scott Chamberlin is preparing for his 25th year as head coach for the school’s cross-country team.
Regular season meets have been cutdown from 11 to seven, and teams are allowed to bring as many runners to a meet as long as they remain in compliance with the maximum of 50 athletes per gender. Neither junior varsity or open races are permitted to be run at varsity meets, but schools are allowed to host a junior varsity meet or an open race separate from varsity meets, CHSAA says.
Chamberlin plans to enforce mask rules among his athletes and will hold practices in “cohort” groups to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Athletes will also have their temperatures taken during each practice.
Jeffco Public Schools cross-country coaches are planning to run meets with each other in order to give athletes additional opportunities to compete, Chamberlin said. Under Jefferson County’s variance to the statewide Safer-at-Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors public health order, outdoor gatherings are limited to 125 people. Because of that, Chamberlin said meets may have to be restricted to coaches and athletes.
“Parents may have to drop off their kids and leave, but kids get an opportunity to run and have a season. It just keeps going and going, but it’s going to be challenging,” said Chamberlin. “What I can tell you is that all of the Jeffco coaches want to provide the best experience and opportunity for the kids that we can.”
Chamberlin said in his decades of coaching high school cross-country, he’s never experienced the challenges the pandemic has brought to high school athletics. He said the only time there has been a district wide event that caused confusion for athletics was the Columbine High School shooting. The shooting occurred during track season and forced track meets to be rescheduled, according to Chamberlin.
“That’s the only time we’ve had an entire district wide, and now in this case, statewide event that caused so much confusion. There are plenty of people who do not want to have a season at all,” said Chamberlin. “Society in general says let’s do it, take the risk. Others say why? People are dying.”
“I’m in the high-risk range. I certainly don’t want to get sick, but I love coaching, I love kids, and I love to give them an opportunity,” Chamberlin added. “It’s challenging and I can see every side, all sides, all the time. Nothing has ever been like this in my 25 years.”