SHEPHERDSVILLE – The 50th season for the Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League was supposed to be a celebration.
At this point the season is more hanging along the lines of a hope and a prayer.
Like many fans, players and administrators, all eyes will be on Thursday’s meeting of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association at which time that organization will vote on the future of fall sports in Kentucky in 2020. No, the GBCYFL is not bound by the KHSAA decision, but according to league president Amanda Serafin, her group would probably follow the state guidelines.
The decision not to play would be heartbreaking for Serafin and the league as they have worked diligently over the summer to try and piece together a season for young athletes all over the county. At this point, the league is following KHSAA rules for high schools that limit conditioning time to six hours a week with that time moving to 7.5 hours a week starting Aug. 24. The GBCYFL has extended the 7.5 hours of practice time up to the first day of games.
Already, the league has pretty much moved the season back a month. Teams could start meeting and conditioning on Aug. 1. The plan now is for weigh-ins to be conducted on Aug. 29 with the first games set for Sept. 12.
All teams can take sign-ups for players, cheerleaders and dance team members through this coming weekend.
With the present numbers in the league, which are down slightly, Serafin is working on the assumption of having seven programs for the upcoming season in the three youngest age groups (not counting the three middle school programs which are also just getting up to speed for a hoped for season). While nothing will be official until this weekend after the KHSAA decision, Serafin and her officers are looking at a seven week (six games and a bye) round-robin regular season starting on Sept. 12. The league will then be off for Halloween before starting the play-offs the following week with Championship Saturday set for Nov. 21, the latest finish in league history.
As of the start of this week, Serafin said that the Overdale Chiefs did not have enough players for a ‘B’ team. Those players have been allowed to shift to other teams in the northern part of the county. In addition, Lebanon Junction will only have a ‘B’ team.
The other ‘losses’ had a novel outcome as for the 2020 season only, the Brooks Saints’ and Old Mill Bengals’ programs have combined their three divisions. Their drills have rotated between the two practice facilities to this point.
“It’s been quite an undertaking,” Serafin said on Monday at the league’s facility in Shepherdsville. “The parents are not pressuring us and that’s not the right word, but they want a season. They just want something close to normal for their kids.”
This is Serafin’s second season as the league president and she admits she never signed on for a situation like this, but said you do what you have to do under the circumstances.
To try and get this season off the ground, the league went to a lot of trouble to create the ‘Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League Return to Season 2020 Action Plan.’
Already, the league has required anyone who has contact with the participants to have completed the National Federation of High Schools Covid-19 Course. In addition, the adults have had to read and understand the Kentucky Healthy at Work Guidance program.
Each of the league programs has had a site coordinator whom is responsible for all GBCYFL ‘Return to Season Plans’ and to make sure that those are being enforced at all program gatherings.
On the ground, that means that temperature checks are conducted for everyone before they can enter the practice areas. Each helmet is sanitized before and after each practice. Players are kept in groups of ten or fewer and the coaches with each group are wearing face masks. All parents at events must adhere to social distancing guidelines as well as wearing masks.
In addition, at various times in the past, players from outside of Bullitt County have been allowed to play in the league, but that is not allowed this season at all. Plus, teams in the GBCYFL cannot scrimmage squads from outside Bullitt County.
Perhaps the biggest part of the work done by the league was the creation of the ‘Assumption of the Risk and Waiver of Liability Related to the Coronavirus/Covid-19.’ Each family has had to sign this form. The document says that they understand the risk for them and their child from the ‘contagious nature of Covid-19’ and saying that they will not hold the league libel if they should acquire the virus at league gatherings.
Serafin said that there has been no push-back from parents to signing the forms, although, she did say that if parents have agreed to let their children participate in the league that they are already on-board with the risks.
So, when the teams were allowed to start practice on Aug. 1, there were limits on what they could do including the limit of six hours a week of practice. During that first week, only helmets were allowed and no footballs or additional equipment could be used.
For the second and third week of August, players can go in ‘shells’ (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) and footballs could be in use, but there was no contact allowed. When the fourth week starts (Aug. 24), full gear will be allowed with contact. Scrimmages can begin on Aug. 31.
The 2020 Action Plan concluded with: ‘In closing, the GBCYFL League Officers want to reiterate that all Districts understand that non-compliance with any part of the Kentucky Healthy at Work Guidelines or GBCYFL requirements may result in league fines and/or district suspension. The GBCYFL is working hard to provide the safest environment for our youth athletes, while ensuring all GBCYFL Districts are held accountable for abiding by the Healthy at Work Guidelines.’
Besides the whole fall season being affected by Covid-19, there has also been a major loss of revenue for the districts with the delay in the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Those were the biggest fund-raising events for the programs. So each team has had to scurry to find additional revenue streams. Still, Serafin said that all of the teams in the league will have helmets no more than two years old.
While each district funds the players and their uniforms, the league itself gets most of its money from ticket sales during the season to pay officials and maintain the main facility as well as post-season awards. What happens if there is no season?
“That is what keeps me awake at night,” Serafin admitted, pointing out that the league just got a new scoreboard installed on the big field.
While admitting that the loss of a season of revenue might not sink the league, it could take years to recover according to Serafin.
At this point, there are no plans to limit attendance on Saturdays, but everyone in the facility will be required to wear a mask. In addition, the main entrance will be just that, an entrance. There will be an exit now in another location to keep crowds from converging in one area.
Another point that Serafin mentioned was that there will be fewer people in the concession stand and that there will be just the one main concession stand in operation this season. There will be a number of new concession rules in place and a shorter menu, but Serafin was not ready to give all the details until knowing if there will be a season.
On the field, Serafin said that the sideline boxes will be expanded to allow for more social distancing between players as well as between coaches and players.
“It’s been stressful,” the president said. “You want the best for the kids and you want to keep them safe. We have put things in place that we think will make it safe. We have had no (positive) cases. We hope the action plan will keep it that way.”