The Stanford football team held their first preseason practice on Friday, Oct. 9 — but this year, instead of practicing on the Farm, the annual training took place at Woodside High School in San Mateo county.
“First day of practice is always exciting,” said head coach David Shaw. “Going from being ready and having to push back to being uncertain and then having it sped up to come back to us, it makes me really appreciate the job that I have with the people that I work with and work for.”
Despite his optimism, practice certainly looked different this season.
The Pac-12 initially postponed the 2020 football schedule in August but after criticism announced on Sep. 24 that it would, in fact, bring back football after compromising with governors on the West Coast. But with varying COVID-19 guidelines in the 11 counties and six states that make up the conference, practices vary by school.
Meanwhile, the State of California published a Specific Interim Guidance for Collegiate Athletics to inform colleges and universities about all the steps that can be taken in accordance with state and local public health guidelines to ensure the safety of student-athletes, coaches and the community.
Santa Clara County guidelines, however, prohibit participation in sports or recreational activities that involve “physical contact or close physical proximity (within six feet).” This includes football in any circumstance. In contrast, San Mateo County does not have such restrictions on collegiate athletics or contact sports.
Stanford remains in contact with Santa Clara County public health officials regarding its proposal to hold on-campus practices.
“Everybody has to follow the stricter rule, whether it is the state rule or the county rule,” Shaw said. “The fact that we are daily testing [for COVID-19] allows us to be able to communicate with the counties and see what is available to us.”
Stanford Athletics conducted 1,156 tests on football student-athletes, as of Oct. 5, and 13 football players have tested positive. All 13 have since recovered and been cleared to resume activities.
With increased safety protocols and the change in location, Stanford has adjusted the timing and structure of practices.
“With the 75 person limit, we separated the older guys from the younger guys,” Shaw said. “We had two different practices at two different times — just about half the team at a time. We really got the chance to teach, to slow it down and to shorten practices. A little longer day for the coaches, but we couldn’t wait to be back on the field.”
But Shaw also noted silver-linings of the high school facilities.
“The thing you forget about being in a high school stadium with a track is that you have room in and beyond the endzones to get a lot of things done,” Shaw added. “We are really grateful for where we are working and the space we have.”
Stanford will kick off its abbreviated season in less than a month on Saturday, Nov. 7 at reigning conference champ, No. 12 Oregon.