Coaches face a multitude of challenges while preparing for the fall season


Joe Watanabe '21

Head Varsity Football Coach Mr. Marlon Blanton, left, walking through a football practice at Jesuit High School on Oct. 7, 2020.

When discussing issues brought about by COVID-19, many have focused solely on the educational impact, forgetting the pandemic’s influence on athletics. While it seems right to prioritize learning, those involved in sports have also seen a number of changes.

One notable change to Jesuit High School Sacramento’s athletics is how teams have been practicing. After resuming conditioning early in September, athletes have been training in pods to abide by the Sacramento County Public Health COVID-19 guidelines. Working in small groups has been one of the many adjustments that has forced coaches, such as Cross Country Assistant Coach Nick Lai, to adapt. 

“While we normally train in groups for Cross Country, our pods are now smaller.” Coach Lai said. “That way, everyone limits their exposure to large groups of people. While we used to run in packs and have guys pace off of each other, they now need to stay 10 feet apart during runs.”

Jesuit Varsity Football Scout and Film Coordinator Mr. Jonathan Isaac has also faced similar coaching challenges.

“Coaching in a mask has been challenging, especially in the Sacramento heat,” Coach Isaac said. “We have established protocols to maintain a 15+ feet cushion between player-player and coaches-player. I have had to greatly improve my communication skills. Less physical demonstration, more verbal explanations has been the mode of instruction during this time.”

While most of the challenges can be attributed to the pandemic, there are other additional factors making coaching more difficult. 

“The biggest challenge has been a curveball: the wildfire smoke,” said Cross Country Head Coach Walt Lange. “We were ready for the protocols required by the pandemic but [we] didn’t see the [air quality index] problem coming. It reminds me of being in Los Angeles back in the 60’s on severe smog alert days. You simply can’t run in those conditions. Maybe I’ll put 60 treadmills in the budget.”

In addition to these obstacles, coaches have also dealt with challenges in their personal lives.

“For me personally, I miss my parents,” said Cross Country Assistant Peter Ferreri. “I haven’t been able to have a true visit with them since February, so I can’t wait until I can spend time with them again. We Zoom and have had a few backyard visits, but I can’t wait until I can spend true time with them again soon.”

For Coach Isaac, dealing with his own children has also been a struggle. 

“As a parent, it has been challenging keeping my kids engaged with distance learning,” Coach Isaac said. “I have young ones (kinder and 4th grade), and I have always tried to limit their screen-time in the past (iPads, TV, etc.). In this new environment, it’s a much finer line to limit their recreational screen time, while getting them more accustomed to technology. I still have not figured out the balance, so if anyone has a formula, I am all ears.”

While the difficulties faced by students and teachers have been well-documented, it’s evident that coaches have also had to make a number of adjustments whether its changes to their coaching approach and or to their lives at home.