The Russell Report: Sports in a post-pandemic world

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - With vaccines now more readily available, those in the sports world including fans, players, administrators and coaches are hoping for a return to an athletic normal in the near future.

But how normal will it truly be? COVID-19 dramatically changed the sports landscape and it would be naive to think things will just go back to the way they used to be. Recruiting cycles could change, fewer coaches could be on the road and Zoom seems here to stay. Coaches will use Zoom to recruit and hold meetings and recruits will use it to stay in touch with coaches. Not a bad thing.

With vaccinations, will fans just return to games as they used to? Some people just won’t get the vaccine, so will they be allowed to go to a game? Could we see a segment of a stadium when only non-vaccinated people sit? Will we still have to wear masks?

What about football? Will coaches continue to split practices to expose fewer people to COVID? Players do get more reps with fewer players in their groups and a lot of coaches love that. Could we still see organized team activities prior to the start of actual camps? Coaches loved that too because players seemed better prepared for when camps actually began and the practices seemed to be more efficiently run.

What about travel? Will teams schedule more regionally to avoid an airplane trip? Can schools continue to take on the financial burden of constant testing for athletes and coaches? And what about the toll COVID has taken on athletes and coaches? See what Alabama coach Jay Graham did, resigning in the middle of spring ball to get his mental health in order. How many others and their families have been affected?

It will be fascinating to see what becomes a new normal when it comes to sports or if we will slowly see things go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. But make no mistake, that normal, at least in the short term, will not be like the normal we knew before March of last year.

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