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Hopewell Valley Youth Football & Cheer Association

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Jul, 2020

2020 Season Update

Hopewell Football Family:

Registration is still open for Cheer, 7/8U Tackle, and 9/10U Tackle.  Registration for all other divisions is now closed.

Like many facets of our lives, planning for a football season in 2020 has been thrown into disarray by COVID-19. That planning was underway months before Governor Murphy directed that youth sports, including football, could commence.  We are sure many of you are wondering if there will be a season and, if so, what will it look like. Below are answers to those questions based on the information we have to date, as well as guidance from the State, our league, insurers, and just about any other stakeholder on this issue. Since everything related to COVID-19 is fluid and could change from day to day, we expect some of the information below also may change.

Should I register my son/daughter for football or cheer?
Yes. As of now, we expect to have a football and cheer season in some form.  Many of the decisions we will have to make will be influenced by the number of participants we have. It is therefore crucial that you register so that we have the best understanding possible of our numbers.

What happens if the season gets cancelled for reasons related to COVID-19 after I register?
If the season is cancelled before games begin due to COVID-19, full refunds will be issued. If the season is suspended after games have begun, half refunds will be issued. This distinction is driven by the start-up costs incurred at the start of each season, including insurance.

Will the schedule be different from past years?
Yes. As of the last West Jersey league meeting on 7/20, the league’s plan is as follows:

 Aug-24   – Practices may begin. This is 3 weeks later than usual. These will not be practices in full pads, but practices for which players will wear helmets only, and then helmets and shoulder pads after a period of time allowing players to acclimate to the heat and gain some conditioning.
 Sept 8  – Full pad practices may begin.
 Sept 19  – Weigh-ins in Florence. There is no weigh-in for flag.
 Sept 26   – Games begin.

This schedule will have teams playing 6 games each instead of the normal 8. All playoff games will be completed by Thanksgiving as in past years. We do not know if the league’s division format will be altered or what the exact game schedule will be. We do not expect a schedule to be released until after weigh-ins because most towns will not know what teams they will be able to field until that time.

Our practice schedule for cheer has yet to be determined, but cheer would not begin until football practice begins, at the earliest.

What is being done at the West Jersey League level in response to COVID-19?
This has been the subject of lengthy debate among the member towns, as you might expect. The league requirements (to date) are listed below. Each town may employ its own standards so long as these minimums are satisfied.

1. The league will require all players to execute a waiver (essentially a beefed-up version of the player agreement used each year to cover COVID-19);
2. All teams must require each parent to execute a daily form that certifies the player is not symptomatic, has not been exposed to a person with the virus, etc. That form must be completed before every practice;
3. If any coach learns that a player is symptomatic or one of the representations on the form is inaccurate, the player must immediately
leave the facility and not return for at least two weeks;
4. All coaches must wear masks during practices;
5. Proper social distancing must be maintained for parents or others at practices, and they must also wear masks. Each town is free to limit the number of people who may attend practices;
6. On gameday, all coaches and attendees must wear masks;
7. Game fields must be prepared to allow social distancing. This may mean limiting attendees, designating areas where attendees may not sit/stand, etc.
8. Referees will wear masks; and
9. Each team will exchange the documentation showing that their players have complied with the requirements of the daily waiver. This would likely be done at the same time that the teams are checking player cards. Any player without the proper documentation will not play.

We expect additional procedures will be implemented as the situation develops. A guiding principle for the league is to ensure that there is consistency across all towns. Only in that way will each town have comfort that everyone is proceeding safely and no one is cutting corners that may risk another player.

One important issue the league is currently debating is what measures should be taken (in the absence of a state requirement) if a player or coach tests positive during the season. At a minimum, we expect any team with a positive test (player or coach) will be out of competition for minimum of two weeks. We also expect that the team with the positive test will be required to notify the league so that the league may inform the teams they already have played and those teams they are scheduled to play. The crux of the debate is focused on the scope of the measures in the event of a positive test. If, for example, a player on the 85 team tests positive, should the flag, 100, 115, and 135 teams also be out of action for two weeks? If so, what does that mean for the entire league? Anyone with a thought on this issue is welcome to contact HVYF&CA President Mike Rowan at [email protected] Please do so by 8/3 so that any concerns may be raised at the next league meeting on that date.

What is being done at HVYF&CA?
We are following all of the league rules set forth above, but some issues remain outstanding. For example, we have not yet determined if it will be necessary to limit attendees at games, close the bleachers or mark them off for social distancing, etc. We also will be implementing procedures for drills during practices, sanitizing shared equipment, etc.

We obviously want to have a season of that is possible. However, all of the Board members are parents and collectively have 10 children in the program, and want to proceed with the utmost safety.

These are broad strokes in many cases and details will be added in the coming weeks. We are certain that there are issues that we or the league have not yet considered. We therefore invite all of you to contact us to raise those issues or ask questions. If it makes sense, we would like to have an in-person open forum like we did last year.

Other than COVID-19 related issues, has anything else changed?
Yes. The league lost two members (Haddonfield and Maple Shade) and gained two new members (New Egypt and Palmyra).

The league also implemented new weight rules. The max base weights for 85, 100, and 115 will remain the same, while 135 has increased to 140 (remember there is no weight rule for flag). This means that any players who will play a position off the line of scrimmage and out of the tackle box, can weigh no more than these base weights. In other words, any QB, RB, WR, TE, LB, and DB must not exceed these weights. If a player exceeds these weights, he may still play, but is limited to playing the line in the tackle box (OT, OG, C, NT, DT, DE). These players may not carry the ball (even on special teams) or play a stand up position.  In past years, these players could exceed the base weight by 10 pounds. The new rule is that these tackle to tackle players are not subject to a limit. The rationale for the rule change is two-fold. First, it allows some kids to play who previously were not eligible, which is important as most towns are facing declining enrollments. Second, it allows kids to stay with their age group. For example, in past years an 11 year old who weighed more than 125 pounds would have had to play up on the 135 team with 13 and 14 year olds. Now that kid can stay with his age group on the 115 team.

We also expect that additional towns will be switching from tackle to flag at the 4-6 level. Remember that ages are determined as of 9/1/20.

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