Despite COVID-19 changes, Rams football team finds success

High school athletes all over the nation have been affected differently by COVID-19 and in Iowa there have been a number of changes to the procedures in football games specifically. 

These changes include periodic water breaks every quarter, and sanitizing all of the equipment, including the football during games, multiple times. This is not including all of the differences in the practice procedures.

Senior Alexander Peterson is a member of the Southeast Polk football team. He along with his teammates have had to navigate many changes to their regular routine.

Peterson had a couple of examples of changes to practice procedures.

“There has been a lot of change to what we do. All position groups have a certain time frame they can go in the locker room and get ready, and there are dots on the sidelines for us to stand on so we can social distance when we are not in team periods,” said Peterson.

Peterson also commented on some of the  changes that seem small, but end up becoming noticeable in practice everyday.

“Wearing masks, distancing ourselves and not being able to fill up our water bottles unless we have a mask on, so they have people to fill them for us,” said Peterson.

Peterson says that having to practice while wearing a mask has not impacted him much.

“It has been a change that has taken so getting used to but it is not that bad being in a mask anymore,” said Peterson.

Peterson also elaborated on what the cleaning procedures are like after and during practice each day.

“The coaches spray down our pads, cleats and helmets for us, and then we have to take home all our stuff like pants and jerseys and wash them after practice. Our stuff is sanitized every day and the equipment we use is usually for just a couple of drills or a team period at a time,” said Peterson.

Des Moines Public Schools have had their season taken away from them causing a lot of unhappiness amongst the players for these teams. Because of this, Southeast Polk has missed out on our annual rivalry game against East along with a game against Lincoln. Peterson understood the decision.

“I think that they did what they believe put their schools in the best position to keep everyone safe. Now, obviously, I wish we could play the two teams that were on our schedule, but with it already having happened it doesn’t really matter what I think about it,” said Peterson.

While COVID-19 has prevented the student body from continuing our RamStands traditions, we now have alternative seating arrangements at games for some seniors. One thing that hasn’t been acknowledged enough was how this affects the players, as now they don’t have students to hold the turnover belt up to or to  get hyped while on the sidelines. Peterson and the football team have been missing the traditional student section.

“It is different. I did not play last year, but I know for the returning starters and the seniors it is a big difference. It has been nice at least being able to get some of the seniors in the endzone so the team gets at least some of a student section, but it has been pretty weird without students in the student section,” said Peterson.

Peterson has been feeling comfortable with the safety regulations that have been in place for the football team.

“I do feel safe, the main priority for our team and coaches is to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said Peterson. 

It has not only been the players, but the coaches, including Southeast Polk Head Coach Brad Zelenovich that have had to navigate the procedure changes.

Coach Zelenovich has been pleased with the response of his players to the new guidelines.

“It has been different for sure. We are dressing in shifts, keeping social distancing during practice and wearing masks. Our players have handled it well,” Zelenovich said.

All of the coaches of the football team have had to put a lot of extra time into sanitizing everything.

“I would say 30-40 minutes to sanitize field equipment and player equipment everyday,” said Zelenovich.

Periodic sanitation breaks have become part of the game this year, but Zelenovich hasn’t been bothered by them much.

“To be honest, it doesn’t seem too different. Just longer timeouts,” Zelenovich said.

In Iowa high school football every team will make the playoffs, Zelenovich saw this as a positive change.

“I think it is a good idea. Obviously, 2020 is a different year. With some districts cancelling their season, and other teams having to quarantine for extended periods of time I think it is good that everyone will make the playoffs,” said Zelenovich.

Des Moines Public Schools cancelled football this year and it has been a hot button issue around the Des Moines area, Zelenovich is under the mindset that they should be allowed to play.

“I feel bad for the kids, especially the seniors. Some of them have worked for many years for their senior football season. I believe that extracurricular activities are an extension of the classroom. Eliminating that opportunity from kids adds to the stressors that they are already dealing with,“ said Zelenovich.

Coaching has become slightly more complicated because of the revised rules, but not in the ways one might think.

“Football is the same, but there are added administrative duties that have made it much different. Our coaching staff has done a great job handling the additional responsibilities,” said Zelenovich.