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Pop Warner football, cheer start workouts

By Staff | Aug 5, 2020

Jessica Lucas, head coach of the North Fort Myers Pop Warner JV cheer squad, leads her team during the season’s first practice Saturday at the North Fort Myers Community Park. PHOTO PROVIDED

The 2020 North Fort Myers Pop Warner football and cheer season is going to be unlike anything anyone has seen in the association’s 56-year history.

Then again, the 2020 season will be so for nearly every other program in the country.

With COVID-19 pandemic continuing nationwide and with Florida being among the hardest hit states, players, cheerleaders and coaches are going to have to be more careful than ever before.

North held its first practices on Saturday, with cheer and football practicing at separate times. Cheer started at 9 a.m., while football started its practice at 11 a.m.

The mandatory parent meetings, with social distancing in the main bleachers and masks, were all part of the plan, where they were told how the season is going to go.

“We’ve put a lot of safety precautions in place and pushed back our season,” said North Pop Warner president Joy Moore.

Steve Brown, the athletic director, put the COVID plan together and it includes much social distancing and hygiene, things not always associated with football.

“During action, you’re not as close as you would be as in wrestling. On the sidelines, we can keep the kids six feet apart,” Brown said. “On the field there is blocking and tackling and you can’t minimize the risk, but allow kids to be in the real world and have a sense of normalcy in their lives.”

The plan Brown has devised will include a laundry list of precautions. All participants will have to certify daily they have no symptoms. If they do, they will be quarantined for 14 days.

All will have to get their temperature taken as they enter the park. If normal, they will be required to wash their hands. Parents will be required to stay onsite in the event of lightning and all spectators will be encouraged to stay outside the park.

All equipment will be sanitized once per hour and before and after practice, and participants will have to bring their own water. Single-use cups will be provided if they don’t bring water.

Lightning delays will force kids to their parents’ cars instead of in the locker rooms to prevent crowding.

Practices will be staggered, with the younger kids starting practice at 6 p.m. and the other four age groups starting later, each at 15-minute increments to prevent crowding at the entrance or exit.

For gameday, there will be 30 to 45 minutes between games so that fans from one game can leave before fans for the next game can arrive.

“We are trying to limit how we congregate people in the parking lot and on the field,” Brown said. “By staggering practices, we can have the same length without having people congregate.”

As for the Peace River Conference, it will not hold its annual Jamboree this year, and won’t start its season until September, which will allow them to hold their playoffs in early November, in time for regional and national championships.

National Pop Warner has not finalized plans, but it is believed that in the event the season gets suspended by COVID, they could resume the season in the new year and finish the season by March.

Last season saw the Varsity Cheer squad win a national championship for the Red Knights, while the 12U football team win the Peace River Conference championship.

This year, sign-ups have been a little slow, with about 130 registered so far between football and cheer. Registration will continue for the next few weeks, with forms that can be filled out online.