Social distancing in all but the score


If a TV sports show is looking for someone to place a microphone on during a Seymour High boys soccer team to enlighten the audience, it could do worse than choose goalie Will Smith.

The guy definitely talks a good game. In addition to protecting the net, Smith is supposed to be a chatterbox. Part of the job description, he said. Fans may not hear him, but teammates must.

As the Owls ran up and down the field against Jasper last Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the season, a 1-1 tie, under a blistering sun,  Smith not only directed traffic, he reported on it.

He did everything but warn teammates away from Route 11 construction into Route 50 construction. He pretty much threw in the weather report, too.

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“Force ’em right,” the sophomore net-minder urged teammates at different moments. “Push ’em left,” he said on other occasions.

“Drop back, drop back!” he yelled to the Owls.

Although wearing an orange jersey to stand out for his special role, he was on the same side as the players in purple.

“Yeah, boys,” Smith chimed in when he saw a development downfield he liked.

Smith looked a bit startled when asked if he is sure his teammates hear him. They should, he said.

“I hope,” Smith said. “I’m trying to make them aware.”

The goalie has the best view of the entire field, so he is trying to make teammates in the middle of scrums off to one side or the other conscious of what else is taking place so they can react.

“Because you see everything in front of you,” Smith said.

Although the crowd was not large, anyone who wanted to see everything at the Seymour soccer field could do so while following public restrictions on attendance and social distancing rules governing COVID-19.

The fan total did not approach a 250 statewide advisory for the number of people allowed in a venue and those who came to watch sat in small familial groups at least six feet from others.

The temperature was in the high 80s, approaching 90, and experienced fans came not only equipped with COVID-19 germ masks, but carrying umbrellas to protect against the strong rays of the mid-afternoon sun.

Past coaches have told Smith he should vocalize more than he does, that there is no room for shyness in the goalmouth. But maybe that advice is out of date, though he picked up his conversing pace.

“I need to be louder,” Smith said.

There’s always something.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association gave its fall sports teams permission to go ahead with their seasons, many of them starting regular-season play Saturday, as long as they implemented restrictive rules on the premises at fields and in gyms.

Periodically, public address announcements were made at this game encouraging social distancing in seating, sticking with the family that brung you, or group you walked in with, urging the following of selected pathways in and out of the stadium, or to the restrooms, and to keep facial coverings on. Fans obeyed the guidelines without much prodding.

Smith and Jasper goalie Geo De La Rosa (as well as other players) were mask free. While hockey goalies somehow manage to operate with facial protection, it is not clear how cloth coverings might affect depth perception making saves in soccer.

“I just like stopping shots,” Smith said, which would think is the primary responsibility of a goalie.

Smith became a goalie for that simple reason, and said he still has to be reminded sometimes to give voice to what he sees.

Given abrupt changes affecting sports teams — the Seymour volleyball team was going into coronavirus quarantine around the time the Seymour boys were playing, and the Cincinnati Reds only the night before had a weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates called off because of positive tests — it seems teams cannot really be sure of a tip-off, kickoff or first pitch until they happen.

Smith applied his own mental guideline to prevent pregame fretting.

“I was convinced we were going to have a game as long as we have school,” he said.

Those might be words to live by in the fall of 2020.

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