The Taos Tigers football team on Monday (June 15) participated in the first practice of the summer, a major step in getting back to normalcy in …
Story and photos by Matthew Narvaiz
The Taos Tigers football team on Monday (June 15) participated in the first practice of the summer, a major step in getting back to normalcy in the age of COVID-19.
But then again, nothing about this practice was normal -- the practice itself was limited to 25 kids and five coaches. Masks had to be worn before and after practice, and temperatures were taken prior to the practice itself.
"It's definitely a little strange keeping us separated instead of together with the boys," said Daemon Ely, the lanky 6-2 sophomore who is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Tigers this upcoming season. "But as long as we are all on the field together, not much has changed."
While the kids themselves were able to take the masks off once the workouts started, coaches could be seen throughout practice still wearing them.
During workouts led by coach Art Abreu Jr., kids were six feet apart from one another. In one instance, some of the offensive linemen were working on their two-point stances with assistant coach Art Abreu Sr. and, while working on the drill, were spread several feet apart.
The same went for water breaks. During the cool-off period, student-athletes were spread across the bleachers and the same usually friendly interaction that occurs during water breaks was a foreign affair this time around.
Regardless, Abreu Jr. is happy just to be getting back into the groove of things.
"As expected," Abreu Jr. said. "We got to see a lot of things as far as who was training throughout the school year."
But this Monday evening practice featured the first group of kids that will be working out with Abreu Jr. and his coaches throughout the summer, at least here in phase one. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be reserved for the second group of kids. Those who practiced on Monday -- the official first day of summer workouts -- will be practicing on Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings.
While Monday (June 15) was the earliest date that prep sports workouts were able to begin for fall sports -- and while Taos was one of many schools around the state to get started right away -- others around the state are still playing a game of caution.
Albuquerque Public Schools, for example, won't let its schools begin summer workouts until June 29 for fall sports.
While for Taos, June 15 marked the first start of summer practice, for others on the team it was more of a symbolic gathering of friends who haven't seen each other in quite some time.
In fact, junior Matthew Suazo, one of Taos' two main running backs last season, said that he's been working out during the pandemic -- and he's been calling other players on the team and encouraging them to do the same.
"I was home working out," Suazo said. "And I was just keeping up with everyone, making sure they were doing their workouts."
Ely was also working out during the stay-at-home order, doing simple drills like situps and pushups -- but he's been throwing the ball plenty, too.
Both Suazo and Ely expressed hope for the football season coming to fruition, but they also understand that these are uncertain times.
Still, the two are just moving along as usual and preparing for a season of football -- and one they hope does happen.
While Ely knows he's one of the younger guys on the team, he understands that his leadership role has changed.
"I got to produce that leadership -- I got to be a leader on this team," Ely said. "My team expects it from me."
The sense of normalcy has changed with the novel coronavirus, but at the same time, things seemed the way they always have. While kids were distanced from one another, it didn't stop the laughs and the pursuit to improve.
In fact, as Abreu Jr. said, "Things are just getting started."
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