BY JASMINE WILLIAMS
WEAKLEY COUNTY (July 27) — After the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) Board of Directors met Wednesday, July 22, 2020, to pass a contingency plan for the upcoming fall sports season local coaches responded to how sports in Weakley County could look. Practices must include no close contact between players and players cannot be in full padding. Scrimmages and 7-on-7 games are canceled this season. The Governor’s Executive Order for the state is scheduled to end August 29, 2020. The football season will not begin until after the order expires. However, this Executive Order could be extended at any time.
Coaches responded to what these changes could mean for this year’s football program across Weakley County.
Coaches from Dresden, Gleason, Greenfield, and Westview high schools said they will continue to have a football season, so long as it is allowed by TSSAA. Area high school football programs are self-funded, meaning team members pay for equipment, jerseys, and protective wear through the sale of tickets and concessions and fundraising.
Westview High School head football coach Jarod Neal gave an update on the Chargers’ program. It is hard for the team to have a clear understanding of how the season will play out due to the many unknowns on when the team will be able to have contact practices and when the season will start. With the decision there will potentially not be concessions sold at football games and stands will only hold one-fourth to one-third capacity, Westview could see a loss of $1,500 to $2,000 per game. This might result in more than $20,000 lost if the season is played in full.
Coach Neal said he hopes this money can be made up through fundraisers held this season, although no specific dates were given.
With fewer fans, Coach Neal said some players might feel the impact of not having as much hometown support, especially during away games.
This will affect what players receive this year with new jerseys and upgraded equipment unable to be purchased as a result of less funding.
The Westview Chargers continue to practice social distancing, check players’ temperatures before every practice and sanitizing all equipment after every use.
Dresden High School head coach Wes Johnson gave a response about impact of his team for the upcoming season. The team is addressing the lack of funds this season by making sure the team puts the players’ safety first.
“We will have to use our funds to pay for essentials like pads and helmets … We will be addressing needs and then wants later if we can,” Johnson said.
Coach Johnson said he does not think a lack of fans will affect his team much; players’ families will show their support no matter what. Limited stadium seating might discourage those in the community from attending games who might not be directly related to any player.
For funding, Johnson noted the Dresden Quarterback Club could help with the impact of fewer fans through fundraising this year.
Money raised each year not only pays for players’ helmets, padding, and jerseys; it also pays for buses, officials and fertilizer for the field.
With 7-on-7 practice games canceled, Johnson expressed some anxiety over the start of the season. Johnson has experience with college football where there are never pre-season games, but for high school it is very different. He noted, “The first snap we make will be the first snap ever this season.” He said no matter what, the team would come together to play and, hopefully, win games.
He added there should be a lot of improvement from the Dresden Lions this year compared to their previous season.
The team has been following all guidelines set out by the TSSAA with sanitizing and temperature checks.
The Gleason Bulldogs are in a different position with the recent changes. Head coach Noah Lampkins has more concern over limited fan attendance. The team is fully self-funded and all money is generated from games and fundraising. Coach Lampkins gave this example for a normal season. Gleason typically receives $3,000 at the gate. With recent changes, that will potentially be cut to $1,000. The team pays for the officials, which is around $500, leaving the team with $500. That amount of money, Lampkins said, would only pay for one helmet and part of a shoulder pad, not even a full shoulder pad. If the team does have to face this financial struggle, he hopes those in the community supports the team through donations during fundraisers.
The team is following all safety guidelines and making sure the health of the players is the top priority.
Despite the changes to the team, Coach Lampkins is optimistic about how the season will be for the Bulldogs.
“We are having a good opportunity to reverse our past seasons,” Lampkins said.
Stating even though the season is filled with many if’s, the Bulldogs could have their best season in years.
Finally, the Greenfield Yellowjackets head coach Don Pitt expressed his feelings over the recent changes by the TSSAA. The Jackets have been taking all the precautions set out by the state. Coach Pitt noted some weight equipment is used outside to help minimize players from being near each other.
Greenfield, like many schools, is still waiting for the TSSAA to release more specific guidelines on practicing to help improve the players.
With fan attendance, Pitt felt they should still see the same amount of fans present as normal. Noting that in many games, the stands are never full and may fans stand at the gate surrounding the field.
“If we play football, the community will come to watch us,” Pitt said.
The money earned from ticket sales helps the team pay for equipment. Pitt noted helmets must be conditioned every other year, which is a significant cost for the team. No matter the financial toll, the team will continue to provide for the players to ensure their safety first. The Bulldogs do not have any fundraisers scheduled.