Football is eating a slice of humble pie this year.
Every sport is experiencing negative changes due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but football isn’t used to being lumped in with all the rest.
West football coach Daniel Barrow said it best during a recent interview: “We’re used to being the first show in town and having everyone follow behind. Now, it’s our turn to feel that.”
Across the state, programs are struggling to produce typical numbers, some to a critical point. Large 3A schools like Swansboro and White Oak will likely not field jayvee squads, mostly due to a surge of seniors who graduated in 2020, while 2A Farmville Central and 1A East Carteret also will not have jayvee teams. North Duplin, South Lenoir, Lejeune and Jones Senior may not have football at all this season.
Luckily, all three county teams have enough players to field varsity squads, but then there is the sharing aspect. Football customarily begins in August with only soccer and cross country with which to share personnel. Truthfully, there aren’t a lot of football players who run cross country or play soccer.
However, due to the pandemic-adjusted schedule, football will take place simultaneously with six other boys sports – swimming, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, golf and tennis.
It’s very common for lacrosse and basketball players, specifically, to also play football, and now those players will have to share their time among the sports. We’ve already seen the impact of that sharing, with a few county players choosing to commit to one sport rather than try to play both.
That’s a backbreaker that really only applies to boys sports too. Female student-athletes will have to split time between basketball and girls lacrosse for now, and later softball, soccer and golf.
As it stands, only Croatan has a girls lacrosse team, and most of its players are lacrosse-only athletes. Golf is barely an obstacle as it meets are few and far between, while soccer and softball are traditional spring sports partners. Student-athletes are already used to choosing between the two or splitting time between them.
Thankfully, coaches have been more than willing to accommodate the football players who want to play other sports, but it’s another challenge and another hoop to jump through for athletes and coaches during a season featuring hoop after hoop after hoop.
(Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)