The Delano Joint Union High School board has approved limited conditioning among its student athletes. These conditioning-focused practices are limited to just 15 athletes being around each other at one time, as well as all practices taking place outside.
The announcement serves as a step in a positive direction for Delano’s student athletes, and Robert F. Kennedy head football coach Mario Millan is as excited as anyone else for the return of Delano sports.
“The most exciting part is seeing the kids face to face.” Millan said. “Practicing might be running drills, but the best part is talking to the athletes and building a connection with them.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing schools to shut down in March, Kennedy’s football program was forced to take a hiatus as well. They chose to handle the lack of in-person meetings like many others, utilizing zoom to meet as a team.
However, Millan feels that these online meetings are not a perfect substitute, saying their program usually begins soon after their former season ends.
“In a normal year our players have already taken thousands of reps and had plenty of time to learn the terminology at this point before the season,” said Millan “Being forced to go online in March has made things harder, and our online meetings can only help so much.”
COVID-19 isn’t the only obstacle for the Thunderbirds, with the team losing upward of 20 players to graduation. Heading into the 2020 fall season, the team plans on only having six returning players with starting experience on the varsity level.
This lack of returners amid a shortened season creates a tough situation for the coach Millan, who now has just over a month to not only prepare a team for their season, but instill their strict discipline guidelines the Thunderbirds are known for.
However, Kennedy has been prepared for board approval, devising a plan as far back as June. This plan consists of four simultaneous pods now consisting of as many as 15 players conditioning at the same time in various places on campus.
Coach Millan felt that this type of practice would be easiest to organize, as each pod has a different coach leading it. It also keeps all the athletes separated, never making direct contact with the other pods or coaches.
Despite the limitations, Millan and his coaching staff have high hopes for practice and their upcoming season, while also knowing the challenges that lie ahead.
“This season we’re going to find out what we’re made out of. But I believe that this staff can prepare this team for this season, and get the younger players ready for future years.”