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High school football makes slow return back to the field

High school football teams in West Michigan return to the field this week, but in the era of social distancing, the workouts are going to be very different.

GRANDVILLE, Mich — What started as an interview, quickly turned into much needed a therapy session for Eric Stiegel.

“You have guidelines from your school, you have guidelines from the MHSAA, you have guidelines from the state,” the long time Grandville football coach lamented. “There are just so many questions that we don’t know, so it’s hard to predict what may cause a turn one way or another.”

You can’t blame Stiegel for feeling overwhelmed nor can you blame him for needing to vent. As high school football teams across the state begin voluntary workouts, there is still plenty of uncertainty as teams move ahead with preparations for the new season.

“The most important thing for me is not necessarily having a plan to start,” he explains. “But (to take) the time as school districts and as a state, to have a plan in place, that allows us to have a meaningful season.”

As we speak, the state and MHSAA are working on that. Right now, their mission objective is to take things slow. In fact, if you were to attend one of these workouts, you might be surprised at how little it might resemble a football practice.

“Because of the social distancing, we’re not allowed to really run anything that resembles football right now,” said Stiegel. “You can’t take a hand-off, you can’t take a snap under center, you can’t even block a shield or a bag right now.”

At this point, one might argue what’s the point of returning in those conditions but Stiegel doesn’t see it that way. He says it will keep players in shape and more importantly, give them hope that the new season could be just around the corner.

“I think that is a motivating thing for the kids, it will be a morale booster for them.”

And that goes for Stiegel too. He knows plans can change in an instant but right now, he’s focusing on the things he can control.

“I’m a positive person and I’m an optimist,” he says. “Are we playing football in August-September? I think we are.”

It’s easier said than done but clinically speaking, it sounds like there’s progress.

Both for Stiegel and for the return of high school football.

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