On an uncommonly cool August morning, the Paris Eagles football team practiced in shorts and helmets in preparation for the 2020 season. Paris is scheduled to open with a preseason scrimmage game against Magazine on August 18. The Eagles open the season on August 28 when they host the Lavaca Golden Arrows.
Once again, due to COVID-19 restrictions on the media during practice sessions, the photos in this story were taken from outside the practice field using a telephoto lens. As soon as restrictions are lifted and the media is permitted inside gymnasiums, RP will bring you a story on the Paris Lady Eagles volleyball team and their preparation for the upcoming fall season.
Today’s story is more about how the players and coaches are adapting to practice under the governor’s guidelines this week. As high school football teams are excited to return to the practice field for the normal progression of practice from workouts to practice sessions in helmets, my observation today was how fragile all of this is with the constant threat of the COVID virus changing our lives each day. In today’s practice, I observed masks being worn. Thinking back to my childhood days and playing the sport, it is unimaginable for me to think about wearing a mask in the August heat of preseason practice. And although today was unseasonably cool, we know that the hot days are coming, and once again, high school football players will be making an enormous sacrifice to play.
Football requires a sacrifice to play that is a little different than other sports. Not to say that any other sport does not require sacrifice and commitment; they all do. But few other sports require their athletes to don head-to-toe protective gear in blazing August heat and then go out on the field and run and hit each other. It tests the true love of each athlete. And those who truly love playing the game, are willing to make the sacrifice.
You have to admire high school athletes who are willing to work as hard as they do, and this year, with little assurance that they will have the opportunity to play. My heart breaks for each one of them to think about the possibility of the spread of the virus worsening, and their chances lessening to play the game that they love and have worked so hard for the chance to play.
So as the Paris Eagles and every other high school team across the state continues to work, practice, and hope that they will have the opportunity to play, I hope that all Arkansans will do their part to control the virus for the benefit of everyone. Regardless of where you stand on the prospects of sports continuing this fall, we owe it to these players to give them the best chance possible to pursue their dreams.
This week is critical for high school sports. The helmets-only conditioning period will end on August 7. And as the governor has said, if we want sports, we have to wear our masks and maintain social distancing. The Eagles are doing their part. Numerous times I heard coaches tell their players, “maintain six feet.”
Resident Press will keep you updated this week as teams move forward beyond August 7 in hopes of being able to practice in full pads next week.
Stay with RP for the latest in River Valley sports.