It is looking very likely that high school contact sports, specifically football, will begin again soon despite Louisiana still operating in Phase 2 of reopening.
Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletics Association, made the recommendation at a House education committee meeting, reversing the LHSAA’s original plan to keep high school football shut down until the state moved further into its reopening process.
Bonine said his recommendation has a lot to do with seeing that coaches have proven they can play football safely in the state’s current reopening phase.
“If they do have an incident where (an athlete or coach) has a symptom or has a fever, and they’re checked when they come in, they know what to do now,” Bonine said at the committee meeting. “They know to isolate. They know to do the contact tracing. They know how to do all that. They’ve done it.”
Ray Garofalo, chairman of the House education committee, said that the committee has received several hundred, if not, thousands of emails about the resumption of high school football. He said an overwhelming number of those were in favor of continuing Friday night lights.
“If we had any negative at all, that was certainly the exception and not the rule,” Garofalo said. “I can tell you the people of the state of Louisiana are ready to play high school sports and high school football in particular.”
James Estes, one of the coaches of the Jennings High School football team, was ecstatic about what he heard at the committee meeting and what it means for his team. Estes and three of his players made the hour-and-45-minute trek from southwest Louisiana to the Louisiana State Capitol to speak on the need for high school football to resume.
“It would’ve been upsetting for us not to play,” Estes said. “And not because of football, the game.” Estes added that teaching the values of camaraderie, hard work and respect to his players is what’s important. He didn’t want to miss out on teaching his team “how to be good young men.”
Estes’ football started training again in June, following the guidance of the LHSAA and school administrators, and dealt with two positive cases within his team over the summer. He said those players and everyone they came in contact with quarantined and didn’t return until they had a negative test or showing symptoms, and they have not had a positive case since.
“Everyone wanted to make sure we’re doing things the right way,” Estes said. “All the coaches in our area are sticking to the rules because they want to play.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference Sept. 4 that nothing in his reopening plan ever derailed football or contact sports. He said what he thinks happened was that the LHSAA linked their reopening phases of high school sports to whatever reopening phase the state was in, but he did not contradict today’s recommendation. Edward said high schools could proceed with football.
“Every time we re-initiate any activity, whatever it is, our obligation is to make sure that it’s as safe as it could possibly be, and that we are testing,” Edwards said at the press conference.
Edwards added that he is encouraged by the COVID-19 data statewide right now and hopes that Louisiana can move into phase 3 soon.