Coach Rich Knox at team training in 2016 (Photo by Jonathan Vader Lugt)

by Greg Starks

While Coronavirus still remains a threat, high school teams across the country are trying to figure out how to work out together while also abiding by the social distancing rules. The summer is typically a time during which football teams workout together to prepare for the upcoming season, but with the virus still very much a concern, teams have had to stay home. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s football team has been trying to find their way around this issue.

“Basically,” said senior linebacker Carnell Kemp. “We’ve just been having Zoom or Google meet workouts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since quarantine.”
“I think it has helped team chemistry,” Kemp said. “We are still working together, but it’s still not as effective as getting on the field like we are used to.”

The team may soon be able to get onto the field and workout together, according to head coach Rick Knox, as Philadelphia entered the yellow stage of the pandemic, which eases some of the restrictions that had been in place prior. The team, Knox said, could be back on the field on June 22.

“Until we reach the green phase, We have to be in groups of 25 or less and stay six feet away from each other while doing drills,” Knox said. “We also cannot use any equipment at first. So we will be doing footwork, speed and agility training and conditioning only.”

With so much uncertainty going into this season, it’s normal to be afraid that all these changes are going to have a negative effect on the team, but senior quarterback AJ Graham has a different mindset.

“I wouldn’t say afraid,” Graham said. “Just hoping that it doesn’t. I have trust that everyone has been doing what they need to be doing.”

Because of the at-home and social-distance aware training, Knox has had to rely on his senior leaders more than he has had to in the past. When Philadelphia entered the yellow, some seniors have taken upon themselves to schedule workouts with teammates.

“Being a senior and hopefully a captain,” Kemp said. “We just have to work on talking to the younger guys and building up their confidence to be able to build up the team chemistry and have a great season.”

Even though there is a lot going on in the world right now, between pandemic qarantines and wide-spread protests over racial equality and police britality, coach Knox maintains a positive attitude and says he believes sports are a great way of providing an escape from the real world.

“In short, because it is something to look forward to,” Knox said. “We have all been doing so little and out of routine, it will be great to see the players in person and start working towards a common goal. Sports have a way of increasing morale and will give us a respite from the real world for a little.”

Knox plans on using football as a way to build unity amongst his players. As the nation and city seems divided these days, Knox said he believes that football can bring his team together. He wants the team to be a place where kids of very diverse backgrounds can come together for a common goal and understanding.

“I also greatly look forward to working with the team to make sure it is a safe and respectful place for every one of our players,” he said. “I want our black players to feel fully accepted and equal and build allies for racial justice amongst our white players. I look forward to starting with a small section of our community to make it an example of what our country should be.”

Although the football season is still in question, SCH is still preparing for a full season. Coach Knox and SCH know that a successful season means more than just the number of games won but more importantly the lives changed for the better.

Greg Starks is a rising senior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

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