York-Adams football coaches express some concerns with PIAA recommendations

  • A recommendation to wear helmet shields caught some local football coaches by surprise.
  • The PIAA is also requesting that teams not huddle before plays.
  • Local coaches did not like the idea that JV players wouldn't be on the sideline for varsity games.
Kennard-Dale head coach Chris Grube.

Pennsylvania high school football fans got some good news on Wednesday.

After the PIAA board of directors accepted the recommendations by a pair of its committees, the football season is set to begin as scheduled — but not without a number of potential major changes in an attempt to keep the players safe. 

The recommendation that caught some local coaches by surprise was the suggestion that players wear face shields to try and prevent sweat, cough and sneeze droplets on the field and sidelines. Helmet retailer Schutt released its Splash Shield product in June, claiming it will universally fit all football faceguards. It costs $25 for an upper and lower set and $15 for just the upper or lower shield.

Kennard-Dale High School head coach Chris Grube said between the cost of getting an estimated 100 student-athletes a shield and lack of information on how it may alter players’ breathing, the Rams will not be wearing the shields unless required to.

PIAA board approves start of fall sports season

“My major concern is, it’s not realistic,” Grube said. “That’s $2,500 right there just for one piece of equipment. No one has ever developed a shield like that, so what does it do in terms of intake of oxygen? What does it do in terms of fogging up, because I know our kids that wear visors now, depending on the weather, they fog up like crazy and they have to take them off for games. If it’s a full face shield, they have to take their helmets off to get water and I don’t know if that’s safe to do that too. There’s more touching of their face.”

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Schutt’s description on the Splash Shield product page claims that to prevent short-term fogging, a drop of dish soap spread evenly should be applied. The Schutt website says the shields will ship in two weeks, which could create an issue for teams set to begin full practices on Aug. 17.

Delone Catholic coach Corey Zortman said he waited until hearing the PIAA’s decision to make a choice on ordering the shields. He added that his team will likely be wearing them this season, but the final decision will come down to budgeting the cost. He said it might be up to parents to order the shields for their kids.

No-huddle offense: In addition to face shields, another recommendation that will have a major change on the season is the request that teams don’t huddle to call plays. It would help limit close contact between the players. Still, with an offseason where teams have had very little time to work on plays, Red Lion coach Jesse Shay said it could be difficult for teams to adjust.

“Part of the problem is, we haven’t had a real practice,” Shay said. “Usually by this time, we would have had at least two weeks of spring ball (and) we would have had team camp. Now, to say we’re going to go no huddle, there’s a lot of complex things that go into that. It’s certainly something that teams are going to try their best to implement, but not having the preparation time we’ve had in the past, I think we’re going to find that as a challenge.”

Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay.

All three coaches said that most teams will likely use wristbands to call plays from the sideline, but Grube said that for teams such as his, that run a Wing-T offense, it creates more issues than for a squad that operates from a spread, passing formation.

“Our style of play is not an up-tempo, spread offense,” Grube said. “It’s a lot more difficult for me because I have specific designed plays that each require a specific name or concept. It’s very different. That’s going to be very challenging.”

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Despite their respective concerns about how they will adjust to certain recommendations, all three coaches made it clear they want to find a way to safely get the student-athletes back to playing the sport they love.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to be safe and provide them with a chance to compete,” Zortman said. “We’re willing to try or do anything that we’re asked to do in order to get back out on the field.”

Delone coach corey Zortman talks with a reporter during York-Adams football media day at the York Newspaper Company Monday, August 1, 2016. Bill Kalina photo

Additional recommendations: Along with face shields and no huddling, other requirements for the football season are disinfecting the ball on a rotation, ball boys or girls wearing gloves while supervised by an adult, officials wearing masks and team sidelines boxes moved to the 10-yard line to provide the option to socially distance.

Previously, it was suggested that teams could limit the amount of players on their rosters by leaving junior varsity players at home on Friday night, which would potentially allow spectators to attend the games and meet the requirements of no more than 250 people at outdoor events. Currently, the PIAA’s position is that no spectators will be allowed at football games, but that is subject to change if the state’s requirements on outdoor gatherings is adjusted.

Shay, Zortman and Grube were all against that because of the importance of experiencing a Friday night contest before playing varsity. The coaches would like to have all the student-athletes feel like they are part of the team.

“I understand they’re doing things for the best interest of kids, but we need to slow down a little bit in my opinion and really evaluate, is it really what’s best for kids?” Grube said.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.