Thanks to the concerns surrounding COVID-19 and its effects on the public, area coaches and athletes who are traditionally deep into preparation for spring sports competitions have been thrown a curveball that could last as long as the entire season.
With the NSAA's announcement Wednesday afternoon to delay any spring sports practices or competition until May 1, just how much preparation have coaches or athletes been doing in this down time in anticipation of a season — if there is one?
“From my understanding, and I've tried to get some clarification on it, there's really not a lot I can do with the boys,” Lutheran High Northeast golf coach Patrick Meyer said earlier this week.
That's not unique. The NSAA's recommendation indicated that no formal practices involving the whole team could be held.
“We were trying to take it week by week and trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Norfolk Catholic boys golf coach Dusty Korth, whose team was supposed to host a tournament April 2. That, like almost everything else that was scheduled, has since been shelved.
There are some, however, unique things that players can do to get themselves ready for a season, if there ever is one.
“They can do some work inside, like putting on the carpet, chipping into the curtain indoors, or they can even go out and play the local courses because they're still open,” Meyer said.
There's only one problem with individual, independent work: Is the work being done correctly?
Even with track — a sport that can be stereotypically categorized as just going out and running — it must be done properly.
“There's a little bit more to it,” Lutheran High Northeast track coach Brenden Olsen said. “It needs to be broken down. In sprinting and form running, you could have them doing it, but without someone there critiquing their form, they might be doing more harm than good.”
Sometimes, the best thing is to just get up and exercise, whatever it may be.
“Especially for our new people out for track, I'm basically just encouraging them to stay active,” Olsen said. “It'd be a lot easier to do that, too, if the weather was at least nice.”
But the weather seemed cooperative in the preseason for Norfolk High School girls soccer coach Kyle Mather, who was the boys coach last season.
“What's really frustrating is that we've actually practiced outside more this season than any other time that I can remember in my 17 years of coaching,” Mather said. “Missing a week or two of practice would have set us back some, but I think we were further along than usual and could've put things together with a few practices before our first game.”
New Norfolk High boys soccer coach Joe Myers said his team was already in game-week mode before the suspension of practices.
“We were preparing for our first game,” he said. “We were clarifying roles such as our starters and nonstarters, and who would fit into key positions.
“We were peaking, and then we went to nothing, which is very unusual and challenging.”
Myers said it was a tough situation even before administrators announced that there would be no in-person classes and all activities were canceled through the end of the 2019-20 school year.
“Early on, you secretly hope it's a two-week deal, so you'll say, 'Here's a 20-minute workout to do,' and tell them, 'Avoid going out in groups,' ” Myers said Monday before the announcement. “You don't want to give false hope that there will be a season or anything like that. If we have a season, it's going to be very different, and the chances of having a season seem to be very slim. For the seniors anyway, it's very disappointing.”
Before the announcement, Norfolk High baseball coach Brian Disch said players, particularly those who were not participating in winter sports, had been doing individual workouts on their own for several months.
“It's an unfortunate deal,” he said. “We'll see what happens next. Hopefully, it gets cleared up in time to play American Legion baseball. But more importantly, we've got to make sure that the public is safe.”
Meyer admitted that he hoped there would be some sort of a season because he felt the Eagles were in position to have one of their better seasons.
“I could have one of the best teams I've had, so I'm a little bit anxious going into year five,” he said. “I have three guys back who were playing their best golf that they ever have last year, and I could see where they were at in that first week.”