Versailles football to make the most of time together during COVID-19
Versailles senior Tres Powers saw what happened to his senior friends last spring.
In what had been a fairly normal school year in every sense, another baseball season was just around the corner. But after a few practices, the season was quickly shut down due to a pandemic that has not left Morgan County untouched and those seniors never got to enjoy their final year.
Now, Powers finds himself in the same shoes hoping that same pandemic will not lead to a similar fate for himself as the Tigers continue to prepare for football season.
“Anything could really happen, this pandemic could get way worse and everything could get shut down,” Powers said of a glooming prospect. “I had a lot of senior buddies miss their last baseball season and now I’m just imagining losing my football season. I cannot imagine that and it would honestly just mean a lot to me if I could have it. I just don’t want it to be taken away from something like this and I’m excited to see if we can get a full season in or not.”
Well, Versailles will carry on as best as it can in a time of uncertainty. COVID-19 has already disrupted the summer, taking away a few practices at the recommendation of the local health department, but the Tigers continue to press forward hoping for a full season.
“I’ve talked to coaches who have coached for 20 or 30 years and how they are handling it and coaches who are new that are handling it and there is not a blueprint,” said Head Coach Kirk Hannah who is in his first season leading the program. “Fortunately, we have a school district, administration and kids who have a mentality of showing up and getting work done until they tell us we can’t. We have just tried to keep the course as much as possible… Whatever we can get done is valuable to us.”
Powers is one who is not taking any opportunity to be with his coaches and teammates for granted. After months of learning from home and social distancing, it is only human nature to enjoy the company of others.
“Everybody comes here pumped up, ready to go and happy to see each other. I tis kind of like the only social interaction we get right now,” he said of the summer practice sessions. “Parents are on our rear ends about going out and not letting us out and this is the only thing they’ll let us do so we have a blast out here doing it.”
Of course, there are protocols in place for the team to gather as safely as possible and practice such as checking temperatures every morning, screening questionnaires, disinfecting equipment, letting the school take care of all laundry and everyone having their own water source. One thing that has never changed is having an athletic trainer on site ready to help with any need.
“Kaelin (Hood) is here and she does a great job for us, keeping in close contact with the health department,” Hannah said of the athletic trainer.
“You can’t really social distance and play football so we just kind of go through it and feel like we have a checklist of what kids are here every night and every morning. They are kind of schooled on when they should and shouldn’t show up so that is what we are doing.”
And with the idea that football can easily be taken away more emphasized than ever, Hannah is looking for his players to have that mindset every single snap.
“It is kind of like being injured- you never know when that last play is going to be and same thing with this- you never know when our last practice is going to be and when they shut us down. Give everything you’ve got every day,” the head coach remarked. “I worry about our senior kids if something happens and they don’t get to have their season because we have some who have put in some work and time and are looking forward to it. I just want them to be able to get that in, but just go every day and play every play like it is your last.”
Going through the summer routine, Powers likes what he has seen so far in his final chapter and said a full season for the team to discover its true potential would be “amazing.”
No matter what the final record may show, that is why Hannah noted that a full season would be a victory in and of itself.
“I think there is so much gloom and doom no matter where you look. It is COVID this, shutting down that and social distancing,” he said of what has been a new normal the past few months. “If we can get some sort of normalcy back in our schools, which means our kids are somewhat coming back- and we are having to make alterations and I get all that- but if they could have some sort of sense of not having something taken away. They can’t go to a restaurant or do this or that, but we get to play football at least. That is something and I think giving our school and community a glimmer of hope and fun and getting their minds off those kinds of things would be awesome.
“The good Lord willing it will come about and if it doesn’t, well go on the best we can.”
Editor's Note: This is the third story in a four-part series focusing on how the football programs at Osage, Camdenton, Versailles and Eldon have handled summer activities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of people involved in any football program, the sport may be a good microcosm for how well sports can operate during the pandemic.