As high school students go back to their classrooms, football programs are returning for the first time in over a year.
For both students and coaches, it marks a sense of normalcy in a span that's been anything but.
Halifax West's football program Head Coach Dave Kelly says things got off to a slow start.
“Number-wise, we had some trouble getting bodies as kids were busy doing other things, but that's been a common theme,” he said. “It will take a little while for things to catch up.”
Kelly says he's felt bad for the kids, who were most affected by COVID-related disruptions.
“It was hard not practicing, but to see kids on the field, it was good. It's been frustrating in spring and the start-and-stop from shutdowns has been rough. But we'll get there,” he said.
“Kids just spent time waiting for the shoe to drop last year. We kept thinking we'd get to play and realizing that things were always uncertain. I think everyone is just happy things are back.”
Along with Kelly, those involved with football are encouraged that there may be a turning point coming soon.
“For the most part, things are business as usual,” said Rob Morgan, football director for Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation. “We are hopefully coming to the end of this pandemic, but we are keeping safety considerations in mind.”
“We are taking all precautions to keep our coaches and players protected. Once they go on the field though, things are much the same.”
Following a football year that was severely impacted by the pandemic, Morgan says this year has a cautious climate about it.
“It's been a slow start for a few programs. We usually start camps in the middle of August, but with last year off, some kids and parents weren't sure what was going on,” he said.
Though football was halted, life moved on in other ways for many, which meant not everything went back to normal immediately for fall programs.
“A large part of the world was forced to change due to pandemic living, and there was fallout where some people were forced to drop things they would or could normally do,” he said. “Part of that was that kids had to do other things instead of football.”
“With part-time jobs, other interests and competing priorities, it meant that it took longer than normal to get back in the groove.
Grade 9 and 10 students are now being introduced to a new sport, and long-time players are adjusting to having a year off. But it was last year's graduating class that also felt a huge impact.
“With kids trying to be recruited, it was a general thought that students were already on university's radars before COVID-19,” he said.
“It hurt some things for kids who needed an opportunity to blossom in their senior year, though.”
At the season opener between Lockview and Prince Andrew, Morgan said there were no fans in the stands due to school rules, but that it was an amazing experience regardless.
“I couldn't be happier right now. These were individual choices made by schools, and I supported those decisions,” he said.
“But to see kids on the field making plays, you'd swear they were in the Superbowl. It warmed my heart, and that's what this is all about.