Coaches surveyed by the News Journal said the face to face aspect of sports was the most difficult obstacle to overcome when the Stay-At-Home order was issued by Gov. Mike DeWine.
The lack of personal interaction during off-season training had an emotional impact on all involved. Camaraderie is a part of sports that many people don’t consider when thinking of the benefits of team activities.
“Morale was … a little low as students had been dealing with the isolation of quarantine,” said Karen Heslop, coach of the Wilmington High School cross country teams.
EC football coach Steven Olds agreed.
“The hardest part is not getting to see the guys every day,” he said. “I’d venture to guess that it was hard for all of us to be shut in the house and not be able to see the people we care about on a daily basis.”
Said WHS football coach Scott Killen, “We went from seeing each other and working out four days a week to seeing each other once a week on a screen.”
Teams still met through Zoom, Facebook Live or TeamSnap.
“We also had guest speakers join us and discuss different topics,” said Killen.
With numbers low in some sports, coaches said the ability to “recruit” players within their own school at the end of 2019-20 was an issue.
“Not being able to get girls interested (in golf) with school ending so soon,” CM girls golf coach Tim McGraw said.
When a return to activity was issued, a renewed vigor was seen by many coaches … something that was to be expected.
“I think summer turnout was stronger because players just wanted to get outside and do anything,” BHS tennis coach Matt Sexton said.
Clinton-Massie football coach Dan McSurley said his players continued workouts during the summer off campus and when they arrived for in-person workouts, they “appeared to have gotten a lot bigger.”
“Probably because they’re eating and sleeping more,” he quipped.
While techniques didn’t change, the way to teach those techniques in a given sport did, with social distancing components in place.
“I think COVID-19 has forced us all to get creative with how we do things,” said Olds.
Many coaches were up front with their teams regarding the pandemic.
“It is something we continue to talk about now, months later,” said Olds. “It was essential to try and do everything we could to keep them from getting the virus or from taking it home with them.”
Sexton said he didn’t want his players to feel pressured to play.
“I have encouraged players who don’t feel safe to let me know,” he said. “I don’t want players to suffer peer pressure because they might not feel comfortable. I want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.”
In the end, EC volleyball coach Sarah Sodini said the pandemic had at least one positive impact.
“I think that I have a better perspective on what’s important and what battles to fight,” she said.
Haley Ibaugh, second-year WHS girls soccer coach, said, “The team realized how much they missed being around each other. They value their time together differently now than they did before.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports