A major challenge this fall will involve high schools restarting their football programs after deciding not to field teams last spring because of COVID-19 concerns. In the City Section, 16 schools opted out of 11-man football.
“It’s not been easy,” said Eagle Rock coach Andy Moran, who has begun to regroup following a year without football.
He said his program was at 76 players as the team began summer workouts with hopes that more will join in before school begins Aug. 16. Usually his program has 120 participants.
“The numbers are down. It’s the number of seniors down the most,” he said. “It seems like kids keep trickling in every couple of days. I think kids found other things to do with their life and lived without football. We’re getting kids coming back, but we have a handful of kids who decided they didn’t want to play anymore.”
Across the Southland, there’s no definite sign of a resurgence in football participation. While coaches at Southern Section powers Bellflower St. John Bosco and Anaheim Servite say more freshmen have come out, other coaches say the number of incoming freshmen playing football remains the same or less.
Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez is placing his hopes on more players coming out when school begins. That’s the usual boost City Section teams have gotten, and since schools will welcome back all students to on-campus learning, perhaps there will be more participation.
But schools with dwindling rosters won’t be able to field freshman, JV and varsity teams. Instead, they will likely combine freshmen and sophomores into one squad.
There’s also continuing disruption with coaches coming and going. Taft announced Tuesday that head coach Aron Gideon has resigned for family reasons. Palisades lost Tim Hyde, head coach since 2013, who took a job in New Hampshire.
For Moran, president of the City Section coaches association, being absent from coaching for more than a year has reenergized him.
“Now that I’m back, I’m enjoying what I’m doing in a different way,” he said. “Rather than X’s and O’s, it’s about coaching and relationships.”
He said he took a summer vacation, something football coaches normally don’t have time to do.
With schools having extra money because of COVID-19 funding and principals needing to hire more teachers to lower class sizes, it would seem to be a good time for administrators to look for teachers who also can coach. That way they could offset the embarrassing reality that a head football coach in LAUSD receives a stipend of $2,811, second lowest in California ahead of only Oakland, according to a survey from the California Coaches Assn.
It’s more like charity work for coaches, and the challenges of rebuilding programs that were halted will be among the storylines for the fall of 2021.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.