Safe Sports 808, Chad Owens introduce 4-level plan bring football back safely

Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel scored on a short touchdown run against Saint Louis in the 2018 Open Division state title game at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Pop Warner, high school, college, NFL and CFL.

Chad Owens has been through it all, which is why he has a four-step plan to gradually use full protocols, including sanitized misting for football players before they hit the field. High school leagues have been shut down since March, while organized youth leagues at Parks and Recreation facilities have also been under wraps since the COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns in spring of 2020.

Owens participated in a community Zoom forum that included coaches in several sports sharing their plans breakout sessions. The event was hosted by City Councilmember Andria Tupola for a second week in a row.

Owens is one of the leaders of Safe Sports 808, a group that has the backing of Tupola. The first-term council member has taken it one step further with a resolution that has the full backing from her contemporaries.

“It’s under the Utah guideline for (sports spectators) gathering, and the athletes will have (their protocols). The whole, entire City Council is up on it. The mayor (Rick Blangiardi) is in agreement, so we will create a written document that hopefully he can use for our county, and other counties can use it,” she said. “The way that we are going now cannot be the same. It cannot be the same for 2020. It is not beneficial for our youth and for our economy. A lot of what we have to overcome is fear, and we have to be able to answer questions about safety.”

Owens had plenty of interested listeners in the football breakout room, which was open for nearly an hour. His plan, in four parts, covers a span of four weeks. He worked on what he calls “a rough draft” with a youth coach, Danny Pacheco. The plan, Owens added, would make protocols highest priority, and has a timetable for football’s return in March.

“Level one would be the first two weeks,” Owens said. “The NFL had so many injuries because their offseason wasn’t a normal offseason. From a safety perspective, the first two weeks would be conditioning. No pads. T-shirt, shorts. Organized team activity. At the high school level, weight room, strengthening. At youth level, strengthening.”

“The second level would be interdisciplinary workouts,” he added.

“Different position groups, still no contact,” Pacheco noted. “Pod-like drills. No pads, no helmets. Just reintroduce the sport. There are a lot of movements that you cannot mimic in a normal conditioning exercise. Also maybe some one-man sled. Some impact on your shoulders, but only with implements, not 1v1.”

After two weeks, the first semblance of gear.

“Level three, introduce some helmets, maybe top half,” Owens said. “Still conditioning, but with equipment on. With equipment comes more sanitization. Maybe half the practice, get it on, the other half, sprayed down, cleaned, prepare for the next day. Maybe some two-step, redirects, some form stuff starting to happen with shoulders. Still on the sled, but with pads on. Maybe more of the 1-on-1s so the competition level starts to rise, the foot in the ground starts to increase. Weight room, it’s all about conditioning. To me, the injuries happen when there’s not enough conditioning. The de-load, the cut, the stop.”

Owens’ level four is split into two stages.

“Week one, we have full pads. The kids are continuing to condition. Still no tackling yet, but forming up, finishing to the football. O-line and D-line getting more physical. DBs and receivers, more physical. A week of that provides a lot of muscle memory a chance to come back. Our joints and everything are read,” he said. “Week two, in my opinion, this is training camp. That last little bit of football conditioning before you’re ready to compete.”

It all sounds wondrous, the vision of actual tackle football in a highly sanitized environment of rigid protocols. It will happen, Owens said, if all the adults do their part in terms of COVID safety and between-the-sidelines safety.

“As coaches, as mentors, we really have to take control. The whole thing of, blow him up, we have to rethink that. It’s not what it used to be. They’re protecting the players a lot more. The targeting, all that, they’re not going to tolerate it. Even in the previous levels, we can walk through proper tackling, head up, shoulder, rugby style. They don’t use their head. They wrap you up. All those details we can definitely work on,” Owens said.

After all that, intersquad work would follow.

“Controlled scrimmages for a week,” Owens said. “The focus should be lets get to level four. Safety. No cases. That needs to be the new focus for us as coaches and a football community. I know we’re anxious, we’ve been waiting for months. Feels like years, but we have to be patient. For these kids to be out there in shorts and T-shirt in a team environment, the simple things of football is what we’re all missing. The smell of dirty clothes, the cleats, so having successful levels is the ultimate goal.”

Then, the fifth level.

“Interscholastic competition and other league competition,” Owens said.

Pacheco is equally optimistic.

“I think it’ll be good. Just have to set the date on when, if it’s allowed. The sanitization guidelines will be the key to it all. As it gets progressively higher into level four, with contact, more bodies, more sweat, there has to be some type of system in place. That’s what we have to find out, how to keep it safe,” he said.

Owens added more input on specifics of maximum hygiene.

“When a team comes to conditioning session, the kids have to bring a clean change of clothes. This is going to take help from volunteers within an organization. Over the top, (be) excessively clean. That’s why I’m excited about tomorrow. We have an opportunity to show how it can be done. This is our protocol for what we’re doing,” he said of his training group.

The mist spray for sanitization has been used around the world. During the early months of the pandemic, video in Peru showed law enforcement being misted outdoors.

“They use it in a few restaurants. A camera picks up your infrared, takes your face shot, (reads) your temperature. That’s kind of what we have. We’re blessed to have that. Every team needs that. Every kid tested. Fill out the form. Then walk through the mist, go onto the training area on the field,” Owens said.

The hope is that these ideas and actions make an impact everywhere in the state.

“The DOE and the people out there who think organized sports are the worst thing to possibly do, but it isn’t. There’s evidence that there is more spread in the classroom than the sports teams. It comes down to funding and money,” Owens said. “We understand that.”

The breakout session included several people who shared their experience with protocols in sports on Oahu and the Big Island. The session would have run longer, but the time limit expired.

Owens hosts the Star-Advertiser’s “THE CO2 RUN DWN.”


  1. A hew January 15, 2021 7:25 pm

    Good job, way to be proactive.

  2. Old School Dave January 16, 2021 9:15 am

    Sounds good and I appreciate the effort to get the kids back on the playing field, but there is nothing about what happens when an infection does occur, and it WILL happen. What is the protocol? Isolation? Quarantine? Suspension/cancellation of the season upon infection with that one team? Coaches and support staff will be at higher risk, too. Not dissing the plan, just want more information.

  3. Chad Owens January 16, 2021 10:04 am

    Our protocols and guidelines are being put together as we speak. The safety of our kids and our community is of the highest importance. When there is a case, there will be protocols in place. This will be an open ended thing. Always evolving. Life as we know now is unpredictable and so we need to be able to adjust as we go. Mahalo for your concerns and continued support.

  4. Tatsu January 16, 2021 8:54 pm

    High school sports to professional and college sports is a night and day difference people . For one it has to do with money and being in a bubble. College and pro sports have the money to test week In week out or whenever they feel the need to. High school? Money coming out of families pockets , not to mention with this pandemic a lot of families are struggling. We have a vaccine , football will be here next season , as sad as it is , I want the kids to play , but with Hawaii covid count low , keeping it this way is much safer than taking a chance , look in the mainland , it’s crazy . If We play, coach or kid gets it , right away it’s a 2 week forfeit , not to mention the tracing that needs to be done, it’s just not worthed

  5. really January 17, 2021 5:03 pm

    Good points Tatsu.

  6. Bulldogs January 17, 2021 10:13 pm

    If the parents struggling then no need play. Let the ones not struggling play.
    Not all parts of the continent is crazy!
    Mahalo Chad Owens for stepping up to the plate and helping the youth! I wish more former professional athletes like yourself from Hawaii would help.

  7. TIA THOMPSON January 18, 2021 1:21 pm

    What about other sports? Volleyball, Basketball, etc.

  8. Maila Kealoha January 18, 2021 6:20 pm

    The kids need social activity. They don’t need games. It will take a lot of money to get games going. Proper practicing should be enough until we have the funds to do the testing or herd immunity is achieved. By practicing only, if there is a positive case it will only affect that team not the whole league.

    It’s a shame these kids cannot practice in groups and groups are getting fined for practicing. Think about this, kids and coaches being fearful of getting fined for playing a sport!? That doesn’t make sense. I know of some sport teams following guidelines with practice and still they are fearful for getting fined or questioned.

  9. Hunt January 19, 2021 7:43 am

    What about the other sports? Football had a season in 2019, but these other sports/kids lost out on not only this year but last year also. Appreciate the effort to get football back but there are many other teams that have lost more than football. Good job on using your platform to get the word out but it’s says safe sports 808 not safe football 808🤙🏼

  10. Tatsu January 19, 2021 9:14 am


    do you hear yourself lol. Let the ones not struggling play. Sounds like you dont care about other people and how they would be effected. Straight ignorance. You think the proto calls for the high school can be at the same level at the college and pro sports? lol its a complete night a day difference. These kids will be going home to their families every night. College and pro sports are in a bubble where no contact is made. only contact is amongst the players, coaches and staff. Not to mention, lots of hawaii house holds has multiple families living in it.

  11. Paul Honda January 19, 2021 10:04 am

    Tia, the forum included several simultaneous breakout sessions for different sports. I could only be in one session.

  12. Mel January 19, 2021 11:35 am

    This past Friday there was high school basketball game at St. Louis in the gym. They did their part in keeping it as safe as possible they wore masks on and off the court. Don’t see why our kids can’t play because the mainland is full on playing high school sports.

  13. The Janitor January 23, 2021 12:26 pm

    I’m excited for sports to return and Chad’s plan is implemented every season during a normal year. I would like some clarification on how we safely return to football and other high contact sports. I’m in support of Chad’s advocacy of extreme hygiene but we all know that an infected player’s droplets being inhaled, swallowed, or entering through the eyes are the main avenues of contracting COVID-19. Will masks or goggles be worn? Will there be a strong push for physical distancing? Who takes care of the liability? Everyone is trying to mimic Utah but no one is talking about the testing protocols Utah implemented. I want sports back to help the keiki but I need more information.

  14. Paul Honda January 26, 2021 9:09 am

    Chad Owens has expressed multiple times (in the community Zoom forums) that protocols will be fully endorsed. In fact, he believes that club and school teams need to follow the protocols to the hilt and beyond if football is going to return by March. I agree with him 100 percent, especially about the lack of mask wearing by many athletes at this time.

  15. DC February 9, 2021 10:52 pm

    Let the parents weigh the risk. They should be able to have a say. Great job Chad.

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