BULLHEAD CITY — Former NBA star Allen Iverson is known for, among other things, his sarcastic reply to a question about skipping team practices.
“Practice? We talkin’ about practice!” Iverson reiterated during his infamous rant almost two decades ago.
He might sing a different tune these days, given the threat of COVID-19 — and accompanying safety guidelines — curtailing student-athletes from working out.
Local coaches are striving to maintain a “safety first” approach with players whenever they exercise, lift weights and partake in moderate drills.
Rudy Olvera, head coach of Mohave High School’s varsity football team, explained that his chief priority is keeping Thunderbirds players and coaches healthy.
“My main concern is the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” said Olvera, entering his fifth season at the helm.
As part of that thought process, the Colorado River Union High School District’s extra-curricular activities are back to square one — Phase 1, to be exact — which entails no gatherings of more than 10 people. At this rate, precautions such as social distancing and wiping down equipment will be expected throughout July.
Using hand sanitizer, but not footballs, is allowed.
Olvera’s squad had scheduled a football camp beginning July 20 at Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse, but he has lamented the event not being “feasible” due to Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent pandemic-related orders.
With MHS’ regular season on the not-so-distant horizon (kicking off Aug. 28), the coach voiced displeasure about not conducting the necessary number of workouts — for building stamina, developing chemistry and learning the playbook — to be sufficiently sharp for games.
The way things stand, Olvera asserted, “I am hoping our season is postponed.”
Shane Pollock, Bullhead City Firebirds assistant coach, sees things a bit differently — because his team isn’t considered part of the school district and thus has more leeway.
“Our hands aren’t tied. We are trying to balance the precautions needed with the reality that young boys need to have an outlet and be a part of something,” Pollock said, before noting the Firebirds had to stop lifting weights but continue voluntary workouts in lieu of football practice.
Outdoor temperatures exceeding 100 every day have compounded the challenge for coaches, Pollock pointed out, while remaining hopeful his players can face competition soon.
“If everyone has been equally restricted, I would be open to playing if the kids are in shape,” he said.
Then there’s River Valley High School varsity head coach Jonathan Clark, who never shies away from positive spins. He could find a way to look at the bright side in a black hole.
“You can see the restrictions as discouragement, or a chance to grow in the face of adversity,” he said. “We choose the latter.”
“This season may be shortened, but it will happen,” said Clark, gearing up for his third campaign in charge of Dust Devils on the gridiron.
River Valley’s football camp at the fieldhouse is slated to start July 12, but the coach opined that it’s unlikely. “It may end up getting canceled.”
Clark persisted in looking upward and onward.
“We are just happy to be able to work out, even if it’s in small groups,” he added. “The team that grinds now will be miles ahead of the competition come September, and I plan on having my guys be that team.”