JPII football

Governor Bill Lee announced he will sign Executive Order 55 allowing contact sports to resume. PHOTO: Pope John Paul II players celebrate on the field with the Bishop Cup after defeating Father Ryan 28-17 to capture their 4th consecutive cup.

Coaches across the Midstate breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday afternoon as Gov. Bill Lee announced he will issue Executive Order 55, allowing contact sports to resume. 

Teams must follow the requirements of the TSSAA and non-TSSAA schools must follow equivalent guidelines. Non-school sponsored athletics should follow the updated Tennessee Pledge guidelines. 

“We appreciated being able to work with Gov. Lee and his staff on this,” Executive Director TSSAA Bernard Childress said. “I am pleased that we were able to develop some very specific guidelines for every sport that will allow or kids to get out on their fields and fully participate in football and girls’ soccer this fall.”

Although contact practice is now permissible, the regulations and requirements for practice and competition adopted by the Board of Control at their July 22 meeting are still in place for all fall sports and must be followed. 

“Children across the state are counting on us - school administrators and coaches - to proceed with practices and competitions safely while being very mindful of the requirements and modifications that we have put in place,” Childress added. “Our return to play is a parternship, and it’s important for everyone to do their part.”

Once the order is signed, contact may take place in girls’ soccer practice. The date of the first contest remains as originally scheduled, Aug. 17, with the state championships to be held Oct. 28-31 in Murfreesboro.

Football teams were allowed to begin heat acclimatization on July 20th. Each athlete must complete heat acclimatization (2 days of helmets only, 3 days in helmets and shoulder pads) before practicing in full equipment, which is now permitted. 

No changes to the 2020 football schedule, regular season or otherwise, will be made. The contingency plan for football passed by the Board of Control last week stated that if contact practice could resume prior to Aug. 4, then no contests would be rescheduled. Therefore, the date of the first contest for football remains as Aug. 21 wit hate state championships Dec. 3-5 in Cookeville.

“This is good news for many kids and their families,” Childress said, “but the reality is that the virus will continue to be with us and we have to be smart about the taming the spread. Every adult and every participant in every sport must do their part and follow the guidelines set forth by the TSSAA and the Governor’s office to help mitigate these risks.”

Gallatin football coach Chad Watson is excited about the return of contact practices for his players and coaching staff.

“As coaches, we have been preparing our kids as if we would play Week 1 (against Lebanon) even though you think it may not happen in the back of your mind,” Watson said. “But now you get word that it will – (that) just makes me so excited. These coaches have been working extremely hard, and I’m just really excited for those kids and our coaches.”

Pope John Paul II coach Justin Geisinger echoed Watson’s sentiments. 

“Phenomenal news. It caught me off guard because this thing had been dragging out for so long,” he said. “We are so excited because I think we are in a good spot. We have been preparing the best we could, and (I) think we will hit the ground running.” 

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