Shortened Season for Country Club and Players in St.J

footballST. JOHNSBURY - The St. Johnsbury Country Club and high school varsity football team share a similar problem, the COVID-19 pandemic may change their plans for the upcoming seasons.

The Country Club was scheduled to open on April 15th, but with Governor Phil Scott's order to shut down non-essential businesses, the country club is forced to wait. 

Managing Partner, Chris McLaren says, "There are no plans, nobody knows how long this is going to last, nobody knows if these people in Washington D.C are actually going to deliver on their promise to help businesses."

McLaren says they have submitted an application for financial help, but have not heard back and will not be able to maintain the course to the proper standards.

"The grass does not grow that aggressively coming out of winter recess, so the only thing we are taking care of is the putting surfaces. The rest of the grass is not being mowed for two reasons, there is no revenue coming in, the government is not giving us any revenue not unless people are going to work for nothing," McLaren said.

Many small businesses are currently under financial strain, but McLaren says they are operating on a day-to-day basis and people are continuing to work on the course.

As for St. Johnsbury football head coach Rich Alercio, he is staying optimistic for the start of the season to remain as scheduled.

"I am an optimist so I expect the season to start on August 10th, that's the day we are scheduled to report to training camp."

When asked if his players coming into training camp out of shape was a concern Alercio says, "Yeah, I think that one of the reasons we have been successful as we have in the last six years is because of what we do in the off season. Our players are better physically prepared, we practice three times a week in the summer, we train speed to strength three times a week in the summer, we attend seven on seven tournaments and we work hard in the summertime. So yeah I am most definitely concerned because the advantage I think that we've had may be eliminated."

For the season to start on time there are certain requirements that must be met, "We need to have ten practices before anyone can participate, so there's what's known as an acclimation period. Now the first two practices you can only practice in a helmet the next two practices you can put shoulder pads on, you can't go in full gear until your fifth, so we could realistically play in week two...but the downside is a delay in the start would not allow us to have training camp where we have either two practices in day, or a practice and a walk through, so kids will not be nearly as prepared,"Alercio added.

Alercio has stayed in contact with his players as a way of showing his support during this difficult time.

"I have only reached out to them and advised them to stay on top of their academics and to be a good son and brother at home, because I understand how challenging it must be right now to be cooped up at home with no freedom to go anywhere," Alercio said.

"Our spring break actually started this week, so now that there is no academic commitment I 'll start to have one on one either facetime, phone call, or I'll zoom."

The players do have an at home workout program that was provided by the school and is tracked, but Alercio says there is no pressure on the kids to complete it.

The time away from coaching has been difficult for Alercio, "People who coach thrive on the relationships with kids... it's an enormous void, I miss the players, I miss interacting with them, I miss seeing them in the weight room, I miss checking in on them and joking with them."

These uncertain times have taken a toll on the mental health of several players who rely on a daily structure and routine.

"We've had a couple kids who are really struggling with life right now, this challenge of not having the teachers, not having a meal, not having the structure in their lives they're really struggling with their mental health, and I can't do anything for them other than talk to them ya know and that hurts that I can't be there to help them."

For more info on methods for dealing with mental health visit https://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/prevention-and-promotion