Because of the coronavirus, it is still unknown whether high school sports will resume its spring season or not. However, coaches in Calaveras County are having their players train as if they will be able to return to the field, track, court, links or water in the upcoming weeks.
Student-athletes from Bret Harte and Calaveras high schools have been officially banned from participating in spring sports since April 16, which includes games, organized team practices and activities. Even though there are no official practices, coaches from all sports are hoping their athletes are not using the time off as an extended break, but are continuing to find a way to train and stay in shape and be ready to go, should the season resume in April.
And while there has yet to be a cancellation of the season, coaches remain positive and optimistic that there will be at least an abbreviated season.
“I was glad that the CIF did not make a definitive statement (as to whether to cancel the spring season or not) the other day, and instead said they would revisit the subject of spring sports again on April 3,” Calaveras head track and field coach Doug Avrit said. “That is what gives me hope, because they are not making a rash decision, but rather waiting to see if the nearly complete shutdown of everything has a major impact and will allow for some normalcy or not. With that said, it is a very real possibility that it will need more time and at that point, it may be that the season is over.”
Track and field has the most players on any spring sports team, and many of the athletes have to be trained in different ways. From sprinters to long distance runners, to throwers and jumpers, Avrit needed to figure out a way that all of his athletes would be able to continue to hone their skill without his watchful eye.
“Most of them are training on their own, as I have sent out training schedules to many,” Avrit said. “They really want to believe, like me, that the season will continue and, thus, are eager to stay in great shape during these three weeks. It takes real dedication to do so and to train on your own, but I know that many had big goals and were off to such a great start that they are willing to put in the work on their own.”
So, if Avrit’s athletes continue to train on their own, how long does the veteran coach think it will take for them to be where he feels they can be competitive?
“If most can follow through on doing the work on their own, it should not take too long to get up to speed,” Avrit said. “The one big thing we will have missed out on is competition. Competition hardens you and motivates and there is no real substitute for it. That’s something we would need to get in before getting into the championship portion of the season, but again, that will not be determined by us, but by those making those tough decisions on what is best for all. We, as a team, can only try and be ready just in case the opportunity does come our way to compete again this season.”
While runners can train on their own, it’s a little more difficult for baseball players to stay sharp without a training partner. For most pitchers, by the time the season was put on hold, they had built their arm strength up to where they can throw multiple innings, which includes throwing different pitches at different speeds. With a break from throwing, the arm strength goes down and will take a while to return to where it once was.
Calaveras head baseball coach Tom DeLappe hopes that his hurlers are finding a way to stay loose and keep their arms strong during this time, with an eye on a specific return date to the baseball field.
“We are preparing to return to the diamond on April 6 for a week of practice before resuming games on (April 14),” DeLappe said. “As that changes, we’ll adjust our mindset or prep work. While down, we are not supposed to work with, or direct the players to do anything. In order to maintain arm strength and stamina they should throwing on a regular basis and conditioning in preparation of returning to the diamond.”
Perhaps the sport that may have to be most creative when it comes to off campus training is swimming. With pool access unavailable, Bret Harte head swim coach Katlyn Rugo has had to think outside of the box and also rely on technology to keep her swimmers ready to return to the pool.
“Staying in swim shape is definitely a challenge without a pool,” Rugo said. “We have been working on getting together an at-home dryland workout that puts focus on overall strength. Some specific exercises that we will be including are: flutter kicks, which are great for lower abs and legs and also simulates the kick used in freestyle and backstroke; planks, which are great for the core and perfect body position in the water; and squats, because every time a swimmer pushes off the wall they are essentially doing a squat. We will also be starting a virtual swim clinic. We will be sharing technique and drill videos with coach analysis and comment as well as past Olympic swim videos that will be fun to watch.”
Rugo also wants her swimmers to do yoga, which is specific to swimming and could increase shoulder mobility. Finally, she plans on having team meetings in order to stay connected with one another during the time off. But with so much time away from the water, is Rugo worried about how long it will take for her swimmers to pick up where they left off?
“Once we are back in the water, I am really not concerned about getting acclimated to swimming at a competitive level, as I know that all the swim teams in our league, and everywhere, are in the same boat,” Rugo said. “We will do our best and have fun.”
Avrit, DeLappe and Rugo are all staying positive and hoping a return to action will come, but they are also not trying to trick themselves into thinking that an April 6 return date is set in stone. With new information, rules and suggestions surrounding the coronavirus coming seemingly every hour, the coaches, much like players, fans and parents, have come to realize that there is a good chance that there might not be a conclusion to the 2020 spring sports season.
“I was hoping they would push it back and give us through Memorial Day to complete our regular seasons,” DeLappe said. “Schools in the district are out, right now, through many different dates. I think it would have been easier for all teams to have until May to get games started and then run the postseason after Memorial Day. I’m not sure a mid-April date is going to hold up to resume play and I’m pretty sure that not all leagues will be able to realistically get started back up by mid-April, making playoffs to begin in mid-May not realistic.”