WASHINGTON — Four letters are a constant with the Washington High School football program under head coach James Harris.
They are a constant in practice, on emails, even emblazoned on shirts.
Those four letters are MITW.
The slogan for the Demons football team is MITW and that stands for Magic In The Work. Work hard and magical things can happen.
This year, there has to be some magic to the work involved to adapting to the guidelines set forth by the Iowa High School Athletic Association regarding the coronavirus.
Social distancing is a major issue with combating COVID-19 and teenagers need to be reminded about it constantly.
Friday at Case Field, Washington players were given equipment and uniforms and pictures were taken, but voices in the distance could be heard throughout the area. Coaches were constantly telling the athletes to stay six feet apart.
“Coach is really on us about staying six feet apart,” Washington senior defensive lineman Zayne Laws said.
It seems odd that in a sport like football, which is all about contact, there is a need to stay six feet apart when possible.
“It is what it is,” Harris said. “We will do our best even though there are times when football and social distancing are just not possible. Whenever possible, we will try to do it.”
If teams follow the rules as best they can, they will stay as healthy as they can. In a sport that counts wins and losses, health will be a win.
The IHSAAA came out with some rules for teams to enforce. “They are not rules, but broad guidelines or recommendations as they call them, for us to follow,” Harris said. “We developed our own protocols from there.”
He said the Demons will do all they can to follow them as closely as possible. There will be different and unique situations that they will encounter and “We will do our best to tackle them as they happen.”
There is a sense that football programs will do whatever is required so that there can be football this fall.
“I was concerned about there not being a season so I just was hoping that we would have it,” Washington senior linebacker Trashaun Willis said. “I don’t know what I would do if we didn’t. That would be hard to live without.”
It is recommended that there’s no more than 15 minutes of exposure, so the Demons take breaks every 12 minutes when practicing.
“The virus has definitely affected our practice,” Demon senior offensive lineman Kael Adam said. “We didn’t get near as much work in the summer as we have in the past. But I’m just grateful that we get the opportunity to still play football.”
When someone is learning something new, maybe that 13th or 14th minute is when it really clicks in their brain, but those minutes are not available now. Whatever can be done to maintain the health of everyone is the goal.
“We just have to do the best we can,” Harris said. “We have film to watch so we are trying to find a way to be more efficient.”
During the three-minute break for water, the coaches have the players take a knee and spread out.
“I think it’s good for some of them because of ADHD in kids, it keeps things short and sweet,” Harris said. “One of the issues we are having is when we are installing things. The second and third team guys are not getting as many repetitions as they would have in the past.”
Junior Jacob Miller and his family had moved to Illinois in the spring, but there will be no football in that state this autumn so he moved back after a long conversation with his parents. His parents will still live in Illinois, but he is staying with ‘family’ in Washington.
“I think the virus has really limited team functions,” Miller said. “Everyone cannot be in the weight room at the same time. Stuff like that keeps us from being able to do what we would normally do. Those kind of things helped a team atmosphere so it has affected that.”
When the season went from nine to seven games, Western Dubuque and Davenport Assumption were deleted from the Washington schedule.
“Those were going to be really good games I was looking forward to playing,” senior running back Wyatt Stout said. “But they took those off because of the Covid. The virus has messed with the way we practice and what we do after practice because we have to clean up everything.”
The virus guidelines cut into practice time so an option would be to make practice longer.
“I am all about that as a coach,” Harris said. “But we want to respect everyone’s time. Especially once school starts, if practice tends to get long, then we’re taking time away the kids need to use on other things.”
The time spent practicing is rewarded under the lights on Friday nights.
“My biggest thing about being on the field is the crowd behind us and the atmosphere they create,” Willis said. “That is something that I look forward to. With the virus, the crowd might not be here, but I hope they are able to do that this year.”