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The crazy logistics of playing high school football

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Many will be elated Friday night when high school football kicks off even during these trying times of COVID-19. 
And while fans, players, and family have pushed to be able to play the season, many haven’t considered the logistics of playing during this time – the behind the scenes factors that aren’t necessarily seen during the game.
In speaking with Elizabethton High School head coach Shawn Witten about Friday night’s game, we got off the track and started to talk about some of the things that as head coach that he and his coaching staff, managers, trainers, and even athletic director Forrest Holt will have to figure out in regards to such matters as how do players get their water and making sure they use their own towels throughout.
Witten was saying that during practice that each player provides their own water in their own containers but during game night, how will the players be able to work this out.
Water bottles that normally are shared by the team in years past cannot be utilized as such this season and when ordering these bottles they come in boxes of six.
Considering there are roughly 100 players and coaches, that means that each would need to have their own individualized bottles to drink from.
Then comes how do you keep all those bottles separated and make sure that players are following protocol. 
Also, players cannot use another player’s towel this year to wipe off sweat, blood, or whatever they might have a use for so there is another piece of the puzzle that needs to be managed by someone.
The Cyclone Touchdown Club has spent time this week installing thin face shields that are attached by velcro to each player’s helmet to hopefully help prevent another player from spreading droplets into the face of the Cyclone players.
In remembering my playing days and being under a big pile of players, it was tough to breathe without a mask and I cannot imagine how this could inconvenience a player.
Hopefully, there will be no injuries that result from these shields that are intended to protect the players.
Another piece of the puzzle involves when teams have to travel and the cost of transportation. If only one player can be in a seat on the bus, one can do the math on how many buses would be required.
This season, coaches may be forced to take only players that they are considering using while others would be left behind to cut down on cost.
Before school started, school transportation director John Hutchins had figured that each bus could hold 11 students on a route. So, using that math, if Witten elects to take 66 players, that would be six buses times diesel times the bus driver pay. 
Schools could possibly come out deep in the red this season with everything going on just to play football. Everyone certainly hopes not and that is something that will have to be monitored especially with the low number of attendees who can attend the games.
By the time officials are paid as well as clean up staff and patrolmen from the police department and other miscellaneous costs, most teams will have to suffer some tough times that threaten the future of other sports.
With the county schools already losing out on two games and possibly more, it will be trying times schools and how to adjust their budgets for participation in other sports throughout the year.
So, logistics will play a huge role for all schools this year and it all begins Friday night. It will be interesting to not only watch how the game is managed on the field but on the sidelines as well.
**Note: I had a gentleman call me today who owns property in town and has a daughter who married as he said a Carter County mountain man.
His name was Bernie and he asked me if anyone had considered the ramifications of football being played beginning this Friday.
He is a former long-term military man who is retired and grew up in Arizona and said he loves Elizabethton and Carter County and the Elizabethton football team and all their accomplishments. He said his high school team couldn’t pay anyone to let them win a game much less.
However, he shared his concern about playing sports right now and he asked me to pass along his concerns for what could result from playing with the virus still very uncontrolled.
Being a man of my word, Bernie I am passing on your concern as part of this column and therefore I fulfilled my promise to you. I am sure there are many others like Bernie out there who have the same concern and we will see probably the middle of next week what might come from these games.
Time will tell.