Effingham’s Tristin Duncan tries to elude a tackle by Freeburg’s Dylan Webb (48) and Lucas Stone (36) during the Hearts’ 42-20 victory over Freeburg in 2019.

Following the Illinois High School Association announcing its return to play guidelines, Effingham coaches and athletes had their first look at what these conditioning practices will be like on Monday

“Everyone is happy to be able to get together and do something,” said Effingham head football coach Brett Hefner. “It had been so long since we had been together so it was great to see them and great to have them back and moving.

“That part of it wasn’t very good, but there had been a lot of inactivity for around 80 days. Today was a little better and hopefully Thursday will be a bit better. We just have to put our heads down at work and stack good days on top of each other.”

While it was new for the athletes, it’s also brand new for coaches.

“The whole setup of it is new,” Hefner said. “Trying to time it all up is hard. Not only is it new for the kids. You already feel behind physically, by this time we’re already throwing the ball. But the important part for us is to get their bodies and legs back underneath them.”

Hefner did raise a legitimate concern regarding the link to injuries and shortened seasons in the past.

“The scary for part is when you look at any of these places like the NFL that have had work stoppages or when they’ve limited the offseason, is the spike in injuries,” Hefner said. “And that from a football standpoint is the scary thing.

“We’re fortunate that our systems aren’t changing or installing new stuff. Our number one thing is them working on their bodies, but we’ve got a long way to go there.”

While Hefner wishes there’s more they could do, he’s also appreciative of just being able to get back out there.

“At the end of the day we’re all just trying to get back to a sense of normalcy and routine,” Hefner said. “But it’s like I told everyone ‘we wish this and wish that, but at least we’re getting to do something and at least they’re getting some physical movement, because way too many of them have been inactive.”

The athletes are assigned to a group of nine with one coach as the head of each group. Groups must maintain 30 feet of space from one another.

According to Hefner, the toughest part is just not knowing what to expect.

“It’s tough trying to figure it all out and time everything,” Hefner said. “Everything we do is organized down to the minute and we’re in a situation where we’re going through something we’ve never gone through so we’re learning as we go too.

“It doesn’t do any good to complain about it, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it work and get better and that’s what we’re trying to do. The other part that’s bothersome is that we don’t know what the next phase looks like. I think that unknown as well is bothersome to coaches because you don’t know what it’s going to progress to next.”

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