On Thursday at 1 p.m., the AHSAA will hold a press conference. It will be during this press conference that they will announce the official plans for the road map back to football this fall.
It’s unclear what that official decision might be, but preliminary reports have been that the AHSAA hopes to proceed with the season as normal as possible with very little or no delays.
That’s great news to hear for everyone around the state, but especially for those coaches and players. Practice is supposed to start Monday, July 27, finally an official return to practice after what has seemed like an eternity since schools closed back in March, ending workouts and spring training.
That time has specifically created new and unique challenges for East Lawrence head coach Bo Culver. Culver’s hire was made official the Monday right before things began to shut down, meaning Culver didn’t get the chance to meet his team until June when workouts were allowed to start back.
Finally getting that opportunity to meet his players and get to work was a truly exciting time for the young but experienced head coach.
“Man I was so excited to meet the guys and to just get after it,” Culver said. “I know it can be difficult for players getting used to a new coach and that was only made more difficult because of the pandemic, but I think they’ve handled it well.”
Culver acknowledged that the pandemic created unique challenges that he had never faced before, but praised the resiliency of his players for adapting.
“I was hired in March and normally I would have met with team shortly after, but unfortunately we didn’t get to meet until June,” he said. “So because of that we’re giving the good, the bad and the ugly all at the same time. So early on it’s tough as the kids get used to the new culture that you’re establishing. But they’ve responded great and by this point it’s all old hat.”
When the players returned in June for offseason workouts, they were forced to work together in small groups because of social distancing. Culver decided to take advantage of the hand he’d been dealt and use it to make up for lost time.
“What we’ve been doing is everyday we do individual skill development. So we have quarterbacks and receivers working together, then o-line and so on,” he said. “So what this has allowed me to do is get to spend more time one on one with the players.”
With football scheduled to officially return on Monday and the season hopefully being as normal as possible, Culver is excited for his kids who feels need it strongly.
“I’m a big believer in what football and high school sports offer kids,” he said. “There are some kids that need football probably more than it needs them and I want those kids to have this experience.”
East Lawrence is coming off its best season in two decades and with a lot of players returning there were a lot of expectations heading into this season. Some coaches might have used the pandemic to quell those expectations, but Culver says they aren’t backing down from the pressure.
“We put pressure on the kids every day to live up to a standard,” he said. “Last year doesn’t always have an affect on what will happen this year so we don’t harp on that. We just want to set the standard that our kids will give their best each and every day.”
As for what the message is for heading into practice, Culver says it’s consistency.
“We’re not making a big deal about it being the official start of practice. In my time I’ve found that kids need consistency rather than highs and lows,” he said. “We’ve been working hard for the past two months and we want the kids to have the same energy everyday, that’s how you succeed. If we put a bigger emphasis on practice starting than the work we’ve done the past two months, then we’re not going to be successful.”