ROCKTON— Brian Zimmerman has seen a nearly overwhelming response from his football program as summer workouts begin.
Zimmerman said around 120 players, spanning all four grades, are showing up to Hononegah High School every day, participating in the strength and agility workouts the team is holding four days per week.
“It’s been a great turnout,” Zimmerman said. “Out of my 75 guys on the varsity roster, about 65 or 70 of them have been showing up. We’ve got about 30 sophomores and about 50 freshmen that have signed up, which is a great testament to our youth programs. We’ve got three teams that feed into our system, so it’s a great luxury to have.”
Zimmerman said the protocols in place, which include the coaches wearing masks and the players working out in groups of 10 or less.
“Because we work out with the varsity for an hour, and then bring in the freshmen and sophomores together for an hour, that leaves us with the same amount of groups,” Zimmerman said. “The kids are excited to be out here and get going again. I think mentally this is really helping our kids, just getting them to a sense of normalcy.”
Despite the presence of a terrific weight facility inside the fieldhouse, the Indians are only taking part in outdoor activities at this time.
“We technically could go in there in small groups,” Zimmerman said. “But the amount of work that’s needed to keep the facility clean and within guidelines would really put a lot of stress on the staff here, so we are keeping everything outside.”
The Indians are also keeping busy in the virtual classroom.
“We are doing a lot of meeting online still, especially with the defense right now,” Zimmerman said. “I think that’s really helped, too. Our freshmen have been awesome, just getting involved and learning as much as they can.”
Illinois is expected to move into another phase in its recovery protocol on Friday, which will pave the way for even more cohesive activity for the Indians.
“If the state goes to stage four, the IHSA will allow everyone to go to phase two,” Zimmerman said. “That would allow groups of 50 or less. We still wouldn’t be able to meet as a full team, but we could go to either offense and defense, or linemen and skill people. The administration has to submit our plan to the county, and hopefully we’ll get that approved by Friday.”
Zimmerman said Monday could be a red-letter day for the program.
“At that point, if things to go plan, we’d start giving out helmets and be able to do skill work,” Zimmerman said. “We can use a football and get more into game-related activities.”
Each player is given a temperature check by the team trainer before every practice, and the players are asked a series of questions before being allowed to participate.
While it’s not close to a normal off-season workout, the Indians are glad to be back on the field, with a hopeful eye turned towards the fall once again being under the lights.