Fred Main/News In this file photo, Mount Vernon football coach Mike Kerr talks to defensive back Christian Brown during the Yellow Jackets’ Sept. 27, 2019, 42-27 home loss to Ashland. Kerr is happy with the number of athletes participating during the first three weeks of football training. The Jackets will be allowed to scrimmage and hold practices beginning Monday, Lt. Gov. John Husted announced Thursday.

Fred Main/Mount Vernon News

In this file photo, Mount Vernon football coach Mike Kerr talks to defensive back Christian Brown during the Yellow Jackets’ Sept. 27, 2019, 42-27 home loss to Ashland. Kerr is happy with the number of athletes participating during the first three weeks of football training. The Jackets will be allowed to scrimmage and hold practices beginning Monday, Lt. Gov. John Husted announced Thursday.

 

MOUNT VERNON — The most difficult thing for Mount Vernon football coach Mike Kerr has been the unknown. Even with the announcement by Lt. Gov. John Husted that contact sports will be allowed to start practicing Monday, there have been no indications on a timeline for the fall season.

“I don’t think it’s effected the kids too much; I think the kids are still really optimistic and excited about it,” he said. “I think we, as coaches, are really struggling. It’s unknown if we’re even going to have a season. Or is it going to be delayed? Those types of questions really make it difficult because there’s just really no way to plan. You don’t how much to do (and) how much not to do.

“I talked to my coaching staff after Monday’s workout and just said, ‘Hey, we’ve to go forward as if the season is going to start on time. Just continue to be in touch with kids. Continue to develop those relationships. Continue to start to think about the drills we’re going to do.’

“Maybe if we’re thinking about having to accelerate the learning process a little bit, what types of things do we need? Are we going to need more classroom time? Are we going to need more video time? As coaches, we’re coming up with plans. But it’s hard to plan for something that you don’t know and I think that’s been the most difficult part of this whole thing.”

What makes it more difficult to decipher is the different time tables between the Governor’s office and the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Thursday’s announcement was a part of Phase 2 for the state. But the OHSAA has its own calendar with its own phases. Phase 2 of the OHSAA guidelines started Monday and does not allow for contact sports to practice.

“I’m fuzzy on some of the details,” Kerr said. “I want to make sure what (Governor Mike DeWine) means by practices is the same thing that I mean by practices. But it’s exciting to hear. It sounds like they’re going to stop some of the limitations that we’ve had. Hopefully that means that we can get all of our kids together and we can get into some of actual football drills and football stuff.”

OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass tweeted out that a new memo would be sent to member schools today to provide some clarity.

Mount Vernon athletic director Justin Sanford was excited about the announcement.

“Moving to a Phase 2, where on June 22, we can start having scrimmages. That’s a huge deal for us,” he said. “That makes me smile. I believe that on August 1, where we’re scheduled to begin our fall sports, that we’re going to be permitted to do that.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what (the OHSAA’s) release is today. But, for us, we’re going to continue with the three-phase program that the National Federation (NFHS) and (OHSAA) put out.”

The OHSAA Phase 2 has the same workout and contact screening as it did in Phase 1, which includes a questionnaire and temperature check for each athlete and coach participating.

Gatherings are different as 50 athletes and coaches are permitted in each group for outdoor training, while only 10 are allowed in each group inside. Like Phase 1, the groups are to remain the same.

Locker rooms are open, but with 6-feet distancing.

Facility cleaning is to remain the same as in Phase 1 and will continue in Phase 3.

Lower risk sports, which are low- and non-contact sports are allowed to practice and moderate-risk sports are allowed modified practices to maintain distance.

Athletes and coaches are still to bring their own water as drinking fountains and water stations are still not allowed.

The OHSAA guidelines can be found on OHSAA.org, while the statewide guidelines will be posted to coronavirus.ohio.gov.

There have been no problems at Mount Vernon, according to Sanford.

“It’s been going well,” he said. “No positive tests, no kids sick, no coaches, etc. The coaches have done a great job of keeping things sanitized and scheduling with the kids so they’re not congregating together. They’re doing a good job.”

That’s an important factor for Sanford.

“I guess in the back of their mind is, if they don’t do a good job and something does happen, it’s just like the University of Texas,” he said. “Last week, they just shut it down. We don’t want that. We want to have every opportunity to compete and start on time.”

Participation hasn’t been a problem for Kerr and his football team.

“I think the kids are just excited to have something to do,” Kerr said. “It’s not like pulling teeth like it has been some years. The kids are excited and looking forward to it and I think they’re just excited to get out of the house.”

Football has been able to run one group this week with a little less than 50 kids. But Kerr said that will change next week.

“We have 70 kids on the roster,” Kerr said. “We started with just one group of 50. I knew that we were going to have a number of kids out of town for vacation and things like that and other kids are going to be gone. So, we decided to do just one group (this week). But it’s more than likely — with kids coming back from vacation — that next week, we’re going to have to go two groups.”

Even with all the uncertainty, Kerr has been thrilled with the way his team has responded.

“The kids have really taken that challenge on to connect with each other,” he said. “I’ve been just really impressed with all of the things our leaders have done and all our coaching staff has too. We talk about it all the time; it’s more important to develop these relationships than it is to teach them X’s and O’s.

“The things they’re going to remember are the relationships that they had with the coaches and the other kids on the team and developing that family atmosphere. I think that we saw how important that was (during the pandemic), having those connections already in place.”

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Michael Rich: 740-397-5333 or mrich@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mrichnotwealthy