By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Jason Mensing has a few more questions for his football team these days.
“Do you have a fever?”
“Do you have a cough?”
“Do you have a sore throat”
“Do you have shortness of breath?”
More than 40 Bobcat football players showed up Thursday for the third workout of the week on Whiteford school grounds. Before any of the players could begin running, lifting or conditioning, Mensing, Whiteford’s ninth-year football coach and athletic director, had to go over a series of questions with each athlete regarding their health.
The questions are part of the return-to-play plan for Michigan High School Athletic Association schools all over the state. To ensure safety of everyone in light of the coronavirus-19, athletes are screened before joining their teammates, must maintain proper social distancing once they do and are once again preparing to play football. For one, Mensing takes the temperature of each athlete.
“Although the protocols certainly do create additional responsibility for all of our coaches, we understand for us to get back to normal in athletics and school life it is critical that we ensure we have the safest environment possible,” Mensing said. “Although no environment is 100 percent safe from any virus, we know these measures ensure there is less risk and by maintaining social distancing we certainly are mitigating against the spread of Covid-19.”
As Mensing, wearing a mask along with the other coaches on hand, stressed social distancing guidelines, he also told the players now that off-season workouts are back, he wants them to ease back into things.
“Our goal is to get your lungs open so we can go hard in couple of months,” he said. “The key right now is to pace yourself. In August, it is going to be about pushing yourself and me pushing you. Right now, this is about us being together and getting into shape for August.”
The rest of the morning get-together resembled a typical summer workout. Players divided into smaller groups for agility drills and conditioning and a small number of players received skill instruction.
Mensing also took some time to discuss off-field issues, such as social media posts, and discussed equipment such as cleats. All in all, the return of football felt somewhat normal.
“It is so great to be around the kids and coaches,” Mensing said. “People, including myself, went into education because we have a genuine love of people and creating relationships with them.
“The last few months have been so difficult for everyone, personally. The social emotional toll of not being with my staff and players was as difficult as any. The joy and appreciation I have to be back with the players has made this the best week of 2020.”