Holding the first official practice since spring ball was shut down last March, the Fort Hays State football team was giddy to get back on the field Tuesday.
"It was one of the best feelings," Fort Hays State coach Chris Brown said. "You could see it in our kids, as well, excited to be out here competing against one another. It’s still kind of hard with all the protocol you have to follow with the social distancing, the masks and making sure our kids stay healthy. But great fun being back out here. It was fun, it was enjoyable.
"One of the best parts of my days is being out here on the field with these kids and seeing them compete and seeing them get after it."
The Tigers, who will not play games this fall, have held weight and conditioning workouts and position group practices before getting the entire team together for practice on Tuesday.
"They did stay upbeat," Brown said. "Just the things we’re doing in the weight room and the meetings, it kept them engaged and kept them focused."
Brown said it was a productive first practice.
"You could tell we didn’t have the spring ball, just a couple days there, and we didn’t have fall camp," Brown said. "So we really haven’t had football since two days in March, and that’s a long time off. They were communicating, they were talking, they were excited being out there.
"There were some good things on both sides of the ball. There’s still a lot of things we’ve got to work on to get better — it’s been a while — but they’re still working and they’re still getting after it, and you can’t ask for more than that."
Brown said his biggest concern was making sure his players were following safety precautions during the practice.
"I was more worried about guys, if they didn’t have their helmet on, making sure they had their mask up," Brown said. "Making sure they were spread out. Those were things I really focused on today because those are the things we have to focus on to make sure they stay safe and healthy. Really, I let my coaches coach today and I was more, Dr. Fauci maybe. ‘Get your mask up, put it on. Stay safe, stay healthy.’ Making sure they’re doing the water bottles right, they’re not getting in the water jugs because they have their own water bottles.
"But I still think they did well. It’s just about getting them acclimated to do those things, so when I get out here I can just coach football."
The Tigers will hold an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public on Oct. 31 at Lewis Field Stadium. Gates will open at 9 a.m. and action on the field begins at 9:30 a.m.
Admission to the event is free, though Tiger Athletics will be taking donations. Limited concessions will be available on the west side of the stadium.
Fans will be required to wear masks and use social distancing measures throughout the scrimmage.
It will be the first of two full scrimmages planned this fall.
"If we keep doing things the right way and we’re staying healthy and our (COVID-19) numbers are down like they are right now — cross our fingers they stay that way and our kids keep making the right decisions — we will do more live stuff this fall than we ever have against each other," Brown said. "And I think that will be good for our kids to actually play football and it’s not just tag all the time. I plan on doing a lot with our guys."