Life Without Football | Future Unknown for Athletics at SPHS

Will concerns of the coronavirus allow for practices this summer? Will games come back into the fall? Could the virus wipe out the football season?

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | SPHS, South Pasadena High School Tiger Football

He misses the film sessions preparing for his next opponent, the long, grueling practice sessions, sometime under grueling hot conditions, and, mostly, the camaraderie of his players.

Plain and simple, Jeff Chi misses South Pasadena High football.

As the Tigers’ varsity coach, like others in his profession, he doesn’t know what the state’s scene for the sport will look like as the days quickly approach summer.

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“Honestly, I miss the interaction that I had with the players on a daily basis,” said Chi, perplexed as anyone wondering if high school football will return in 2020.  “There are some positives to staying home and being safe, but the social aspect of coach-player relationship is dearly missed.”

With spring practices canceled, Chi is left asking if summer drills will take place? Will students return in the fall taking online distance learning classes. That’s another question ponders, Chi, a math teacher on the SPHS campus.

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | South Pasadena High Tiger Football Varsity Coach, Jeff Chi

The coronavirus has thrown everything into a world of question marks. “As of now, we have missed spring football, & most likely to miss summer football unless there are drastic changes to our current situation,” said Chi, who led the Tigers to a 7-4 overall record last year, good enough for a third place finish in the Rio Hondo League. “So the plan is how we will get the players ready, once we get the okay to practice, and up to speed for competition.” 

While he awaits the green light for his players to head back to the gridiron again, Chi and his coaching staff have encouraged players “to be active, using their body weight to exercise and to condition,” he said. “In addition, allowing them to look at their playbooks, and films from last year to mentally get ready for our opponents” is key right now.

Much of his team’s success last season was a result of being in top physical condition, hitting the weight room in the spring. Coaches like Chi say that the time games are won. Even today, the Tigers’ coach knows it can be difficult on those not spending the necessary time on preparing their body for the demands of a long campaign.

Asked what he has heard from CIF-Southern Section on when practices can be held, Chi said: “CIF does not seem to have the ultimate decision on when each team is allowed to practice, different counties are affected differently and it will be very challenging to make the season equitable, allowing each team to have the same number of practice hours. Especially for safety reason for players, making sure that they are prepared properly before competition.”

For Chi, over the past 10 week of watching the impact of COVID-19 on the world, it’s about doing the right thing. “Doing my part of social distancing,” he said.  “I wish that our lives are back to what it was, unfortunately that is not the case and we have to adjust and make the best of our situations. One thing for sure, I am grateful for my family, friends, and people around me; this whole situation has reminded me of how precious everyone is, and not to take them for granted. People need people. No amount of money, power, intelligence seems helpful, just compassion and love. 

I am very fortunate to have the basic needs of survival, I can’t complain.” 

Spending a lot of time with his wife, two kids and the two dogs have absorbed much of Chi’s life in recent days. “We keep each other entertained and grounded. I have adapted to distance learning, but I’d rather be in the classroom, having interaction with the students. I am hoping for all of us to go back into the classroom as soon as possible.”

And back to the football field along with it, missing “the relationship that you build, watching the players grow and mature into fine young men,” he said, noting it’s a place players are given the opportunity “to learn from their mistakes – because no one is perfect – about winning and losing, recognizing everyone can get better, and knowing, ultimately, if you prepare and put time and effort into whatever you decide to do, you can be successful – the most important lesson.”