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Preparing for the best; Plymouth football upbeat and waiting

Rockies Logo PLYMOUTH – While the world grapples with the way to combat COVID-19 Plymouth’s Rockies are respecting the danger but grappling with how to combat the NLC football schedule at the same time. “Things have been going great so far,” said Plymouth football coach John Barron. “The kids have been fantastic. They haven’t complained about wearing the mask all the time they’re doing everything we ask, they’ve been great.” “I also have to say the leadership of our AD (Michael Delp) has been fantastic through this,” he said. “He hasn’t been anything but positive and totally prepared and has a great sense of the magnitude of what’s going on.” There is also an unsung hero in the course of the school’s return for Barron. “How can you say enough about our custodial staff?” he said. “In a normal year they are dealing with mersa or whatever staph infection could be transmitted in a locker room or weight room and now this. They are doing an unbelievable job making sure all those areas are cleaned constantly so that our kids are safe.” Figuring out how to beat a nickel defense in third and long is one thing. Figuring out how to beat a virus is another. Figuring out the latter, while still accomplishing something in practice has been a challenge for all coaches. “The number of kids that we have we had to be organized,” said Barron. “We knew it was going to involve a lot of changes to our daily routine. Let’s face it, teenagers are social beings, and it is very hard to get them to realize they need to stay distant from each other and constantly have their face covered.” “We had a lot of meetings to hammer home staying as far apart as possible,” said Barron. Making sure that players know the plays is key but there is something else that enters into the challenges for this year. “You have to trust the info that you are getting,” said Barron. “The IFCA (Indiana Football Coaches Association) has encouraged us all to kind of tap the breaks as we go ahead and not be aggressive about returning to competition.” “They’ve encouraged us all to not do the seven on seven or scrimmages we’ve done the past few years,” he said. “They encouraged us to wait until August. Their point is simple if you can’t prove you are socially distant, masked, and test negative your whole program is in danger of being shut down.” So far Plymouth athletes are working by themselves, socially distant in the weight room, but another mainstay of high school athletics at Plymouth is still in limbo. “We aren’t even at a point we can think about being in a locker room yet,” said Barron. “(Superintendant) Andy Hartley will make that decision when the time comes and it will be when we know that it’s safe to do so.” Much of the reason for being involved in team sports is the camaraderie of the team. Right now that is a tightrope to walk. “Everybody has their own opinions about all of this and how it’s going to play out,” said Barron. “We are all social beings. Everything in us wants to be social and it’s hard. It’s just more important that we’ve gone the extra mile to be sure nobody gets hurt.” Along those lines football coaches also have many hurdles to the goal of limiting injury. For football two of those receiving emphasis, the past several years is limiting the possibilities of concussion and heat acclimation. The first requires constant repetition of the “heads up” tackling method. The other requires slowly working into competition in full equipment and being sure that athletes are educated on staying hydrated. “It’s one of the reasons that we haven’t gone to helmet’s and shoulder pads, that and not being able to be in the locker room,” said Barron. “It looks like we will probably have two weeks to get ready for that. It’s already a lot less time than we’ve had, but the key is not to try to catch up all at once. That’s when your players are going to get injured. We will do everything that we can. We’ve been really good at tackling air right now but it’s getting to the point that we have to be in pads soon.” In the end, the decision will be made outside of the coach’s hands. So far as what’s next, everybody’s guess is as good as everybody else’s. “I know the NLC is trying to stay consistent but what that means this week is going to change next week,” said Barron. He is still upbeat about a return of football for the coming season. “I think we will play this year,” said Barron. “I know that Andy (Hartley) is doing all he can do to stay on top of all of this. He really cares about kids and his only concern is keeping everybody safe. I hope the community supports the decisions he makes because they are really trying to do the right thing for everybody.” “I’m confident that we will have some sort of a season,” he said. “We may have some cancellations and forfeits on the way. I really feel that it’s good for the kids to be involved again.” “Whatever we will give it our best.”

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