Free has plan for Dakota under IHSA 'Return to Play' guidelines

Published: Jun. 6, 2020 at 10:48 PM CDT
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Saturday was the first day teams were allowed to open voluntary strength and conditioning sessions. However, most of the state awaits local school districts and health departments to give them the okay.

"We're going to keep doing it the right way."

Dakota football head coach Joe Free looks forward to the day he can get back on the field with his team. But the workouts leading up to the start of the season will be different.

The IHSA and Illinois Department of Public Health outlined its 'Return to Play' plan. One of the guidelines was that groups could be no more than ten and had to be predetermined. The number of participants includes coaches and groups cannot be switched.

"I went through each one of the guidelines, and I told them this is your group," said Free. "If you show up late, you're not coming in. We won't penalize you for that, but just know you're not going to get a workout for that day."

Athletes are limited to three hours of participation per day and must maintain six feet of social distance. Free said they will make sure everyone complies.

"At the end of the day, my job's on the line. If I screw up enough, that's grounds to be sent away. I'm not willing to risk that if that means because they forgot a mask one day."

While sport-specific drills are not permitted, Free believed that should not be a problem.

"Kids today, they work better off screens and technology anyway. So we've been really utilizing position meetings and stuff like that, doing some film study. Checking in on them through zoom. I think that's probably been the best thing for us."

Free said this will also help build discipline and responsibility for his players.

"The teams that are going to get off to good starts, I think this year, are going to be who adapted the best and who did the most work when no one was watching."

Free hopes to start working with his team on Tuesday, but said they will be ready to go whenever they get the final approval.

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