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The Crestwood High School football team is anxious to get to work on what is hopefully the 2020 football season after months away due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn't mean the Knights are going to begin workouts blindly.
"We're excited and ready to go, but at the same time we want to take all the precautions possible, being safe and making sure we're doing things the right way," said Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson, whose squad will begin workouts on Monday after being given clearance to do so earlier this week by Sumter School District. "We're going to take things slow starting out. We're not going to hit the ground wide open, we're going to take it slow to make sure we're as safe as possible while we're doing things outside."
Nelson and his staff have spent the last week ironing out all the procedures that they'll be implementing at workouts and they're leaving no stones unturned.
"Basically going through every scenario possible from the pre-screening process, we've got set up to practice, to ending practice," said Nelson. "We spent more time on procedures than actual practice on the field. We made sure we've got everything taken care of from a structural, organizational and procedure standpoint."
There is one positive to starting workouts a bit later than other schools. Nelson has talked to a number of different coaches as he's tried to come up with the ideal game plan for how to do things efficiently. Nelson said those conversations led to what he sees as one of their biggest strengths: Crestwood's pre-screening process.
"I think our pre-screening process is second to none the way we've got it set up," said Nelson. "Our athletic trainer, Coach (Charles) Bell, has done a tremendous job heading that up and making sure we take the proper procedures on that. Also, athletic director Dwayne Edwards has given us a plan to move forward there. Us three, myself, Coach Bell, Coach Edwards, have done a lot of communicating with each other to make sure these kids get on campus safe and leave in a timely order."
The Knights will have a 2-step pre-screening process before players even take the field. There will be two stations that players will stop at to go through temperature checks and health screenings as efficiently as possible.
"That's going to be done before they touch the field. We've got two stations set up for them," said Nelson. "One is once they enter onto the campus, that's the checkpoint there where there's a screening process, some questions they've got to answer and some things they've got to show us. From there they move on down to the second phase and another screening process is going to happen there."
Nelson also had to figure out the best way to manage the large number of football players across all four high school classes. To keep things simple early, the Knights will start with their varsity athletes and expand after a week of workouts.
"We're looking right now at possibly having around 50 kids in on Monday," said Nelson. "Our goal is to probably get that second wave, my younger guys, first-year players in the program, rising freshmen, those guys will start trickling in around August 31.
"We're looking at getting about 50 kids in on Monday and those guys can be broken into pods according to their position group. Each pod is going to average about 10 people per pod with the ability to hold up to 16, but we're gonna have about 10 per pod plus two coaches."
Those pods will stay in one place the entire workout each day. That means the Knights will be staying out of the weight room, for now.
"Our first week here, we're not going to the weight room, we're not going to use it the first week," said Nelson. "We're going to make sure to get things in order on the field first, make sure we know what to do, make sure everyone's on the same accord on the field, and we're not going to move into our weight room workout and conditioning stuff until our second week on the field."
Nelson knows there will be some unforeseen issues to arise, but he's focused on just getting the ball rolling.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," said Nelson of upcoming challenges. "The biggest thing is that we take things slow starting out and get our guys in some shape."
Crestwood won't be starting from scratch when Monday rolls around. Nelson and his staff have gone out of their way to keep in touch with their athletes throughout the pandemic, so everyone is on the same page.
"My staff and myself personally have been communicating with our kids since March, pretty much. Whether we contact those guys on social media or phone calls, whether it's through emails or text messages, we've had that open dialogue with our guys for the last four or five months or so," said Nelson. "I kinda got a good idea what a good bit of them are doing, but just getting eyes on them, you kinda miss that part of it as far as being able to get eyes on them and actually see them and get that connection back going.
"My staff has done a tremendous job of building relationships with the kids and making sure we're looking at them and let them know that it's bigger than just football and we care about their well-being off the field more than we do on the field."
The Crestwood coaches have kept up with their students, but that doesn't mean they're just going to focus on football during workouts. Nelson said he plans to open their first workout by giving his athletes to a chance to talk about the confusing times we're currently living in.
"We're glad to see them, we're definitely excited about it. Our first thing, before we do any drills, we're going to take our first part of practice to get a question-and-answer session going with our players," said Nelson. "It'll be about questions they have, concerns, because there's a lot going on in the world today that we want to make sure that anything they have on their hearts that they want to express, they have an opportunity to."
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