COVID-19 has affected several aspects of school life, from prom and graduation last spring to enrollment and how classes will be handled this fall.
Athletics is not immune to the novel coronavirus, as the way practices are run and scheduling of games are among the areas affected by COVID-19.
Caldwell County High School fields teams in football, golf, boys’ and girls’ soccer and volleyball in the fall, and they are the first in the 2020-21 school year to feel the effect of the health guidelines regarding COVID-19.
CCHS Athletics Director Kim Farmer said Caldwell County athletics is doing what it can to follow the guidelines and keep sports going.
“Our coaches have done a great job so far,” she said. “They go through the screening every day. They have the questionnaire screening that they have to fill out; they do the temperature checks every day, and that’s just to get practice started.
“I’ve asked my coaches to give me what they’ve got to have to play this year. Everyone has done a good job of scaling back. We’ve had to make cuts. Our boys’ soccer was up to get new uniforms this year, and that doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”
Football, a sport that contributes greatly to a school’s financing, has been affected by COVID-19.
“(Football) is in a non-mandatory timeframe until Aug. 24,” Farmer said. “Students cannot be held responsible for not showing up (to practice); they can come and participate if they want to.”
Tigers football has been practicing three days a week since the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) has approved conditioning for the teams statewide July 28.
“Everything’s been socially distanced out on the football field so far,” Farmer said. “They’re still going to rotate groups in and out of the weight room.”
On Aug. 24, teams across the state will be allowed to practice in helmets only, with shoulder pads allowed beginning Aug. 31 and full gear allowed Sept. 3.
Caldwell County opens its season Sept. 11 at home against Crittenden County.
Because of the late start, teams are allowed up to nine games during the regular season, and playoffs begin Nov. 13.
“Because of that, we lost a home game,” Farmer said. “We are only going to have four home games instead of five. That hurts us in revenue, and the less revenue we have, the less money we have to spend on the kids and the program as well.”
CCHS football is coming off of an 8-3 season and second-place 2A District 1 finish under second-year head coach Will Barnes.
The boys’ soccer team is practicing at Butler Field, while the girls’ soccer team has been practicing at the youth soccer fields. Soccer season begins Sept. 7.
“They are only allowed 16 (regular-season) games this year,” Farmer said. “So, their season has been cut quite a bit as well.”
Farmer said soccer practice is following similar guidelines that other sports are following.
“Everyone is still staying in pods of 10 (players per coach) so that we can contact-trace, if that were to have to come up,” she said. “(Girls’ head coach) Rhett (Miller) is running, I think, four different groups, trying to keep everybody going. I think he has two groups coming in at two separate times, so that’s how he keeps up with his four.”
Both soccer teams have opted out of the All A competition this year — which was scheduled to take place during the last week of August — because of the shortened schedule.
“Normally, if you’re in All A, all sports have to participate,” Farmer said. “This year, with the COVID thing, soccer wanted to get out, but volleyball wanted to participate.
“All A is having discussions now, and we have not even heard if they are going to continue with the tournaments or not for the fall.”
The CCHS girls’ soccer team is coming off of a 12-8 season and a second-place finish in District 7 play, advancing to the Second Region championship tournament. The boys’ team also placed second in District 7 with wins over district rival Hopkins County Central, Christian County, Lyon County and Butler County.
Volleyball started its practice last week in the gym, running three practices a week.
“They are only allowed 28 matches this year, so they have had to cut some off of their (schedule) as well,” Farmer said. “They were supposed to travel to Massac County (in Illinois), and we’ve taken that off of the schedule because we are not doing any out-of-state traveling.”
The KHSAA allows teams to travel to states that border Kentucky, but Farmer said that Caldwell County decided not to travel outside the commonwealth.
CCHS volleyball went 22-14 last year, winning the District 7 regular-season and tournament titles and falling in the Second Region championship tournament semifinals.
Golf’s season began July 15 after being approved by the KHSAA to begin, with the competition season beginning last week.
Farmer said that observing COVID-19 guidelines has given sports a new aspect.
“It’s difficult,” she said. “The coaches have to stay in the masks regardless of how much they engage in a physical activity with the kids.
“I’d say their most challenging thing right now is creativity and coming up with things so it’s not the same thing over and over and over every day. You want to keep the kids’ interest in it; you don’t want them to get burned out before their official season begins.”