The tackle football season is a complete write-off this fall here in Manitoba because of COVID-19. But even though there’ll be no university games played, the Manitoba Bisons are still trying to give their players a sense of normalcy by holding practices twice a week throughout the fall.
There’s no game planning, but players on the Manitoba Bisons are still out on the field, mostly working on the fundamentals despite the lost season.
“I’ll tell you, our players are loving it. They’re loving being on the field,” Bisons football Head Coach Brian Dobie said. “There are so many reasons, but I think with everything we’ve gone through the past seven months with the COVID era we’re in right now — I think for so many reasons sport is critical.”
The Bisons have around 70 players taking part in the optional practices. And while some other Canadian university teams made it mandatory, the Herd allowed 11 players to opt-out while remaining on scholarships and still taking part in their Zoom meetings.
“I made a decision almost immediately,” said Dobie. “I wasn’t going to put a gun to anybody’s head. I just think there’s no accounting for the enumerable countless experiences people have gone through.”
But it’s not exactly business as usual with the Bisons following some strict guidelines which means anything as simple as a huddle has to be scrapped.
“We’re allowed very minimal contact time that we adhere to based on the aforementioned return-to-play rules,” Dobie said. “The huddles — that’s one that you notice. Instead of holding up a card, we’ve got two coaches. One to the weak-side, one to the strong-side for the huddle formation spread out. And we do our best to social distance.”
How long the practices will last will depend largely on the weather, according to Dobie.
“When it starts getting cold that’s when I’ll start looking at things,” Dobie said. “I should have been six-foot-six so I could have been a basketball coach. I hate being cold.
“I don’t want to put these guys out in an early November Manitoba blizzard at -11 and the snow flying and the wind whistling. There’s no point to that.”