Now that there’s a three-week summer practice period in place for prep sports, here comes the real game plan for Putnam County football coaches: How do you maintain the semblance of workouts while also continuing to follow possible social distancing and health guidelines due to the coronavirus?
Scramble drill, indeed.
At least Putnam coaches and school officials have two months to get something together before the start of the Secondary School Activities Commission-approved summer practice period, which for them takes place July 6-25.
“We’ve been meeting every week, discussing the what-ifs when we get back — if we get back,’’ said Poca coach Seth Ramsey, referring to assistant coaches, trainers and some school administrators.
“We’re just brainstorming on everything we have to do to have the kids stay safe. Do we need to have sanitizing stations, do we need to wear masks, do we have to bring the kids in with different groups to keep the number below 15 or 20? Everything is extremely fluid as it goes on because it’s so new for everybody. We try to get ahead of it the best we can.’’
Winfield coach Craig Snyder finds himself thinking out loud when it comes to what COVID-19 regulations might be in place in less than two months.
“We’re waiting to find out,’’ Snyder said. “Will things look different when our guys are together? Can we have 50 guys in the locker room at once, or in the weight room? Maybe we’ll have to lift in shifts with only so many guys in the weight room, and we can have other guys outside doing different things with certain coaches, maybe their position coaches.
“I wonder when the whole team can be together and how can I coach all the guys at once. Maybe we’ll have to do it by pods or positions, maybe at 50% capacity — 25 at a time. Football is a unique sport on how so many people are together. I’m know I’m getting texts from my guys who want me to answer those questions, but this is the biggest unknown I’ve run into, and I’ve been coaching since 1994.’’
Buffalo coach Brian Batman wonders if workouts will be limited to each school’s players.
“A lot of schools like to go 7 on 7,’’ Batman said. “Is that going to be possible, or do you stay at home and work on your own team? Who knows? Those are all questions I don’t have the answers to.
“I know you’ve got to err on the side of caution, but it’s still mid-May. I think probably as we get closer [to practice dates], then we’ll have some conversations. We’re still kind of waiting.’’
The coaches agreed that expectations of what they might see from their players in July will be tempered by the realization that the athletes will have been on their own and away from school facilities for about four months, and some of them might not be in tip-top shape.
“What’s funny,’’ said Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor, “is that normally, our kids didn’t do much in the summer anyway. I’d get mad at them, and I used to get really pissed off. Then I asked myself, ‘What did I do when I was their age,’ and I know I wasn’t trying to do all this stuff.
“It’s definitely going to be something different, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t sit around and think about it a ton. My assistants think about it more.’’
Ramsey said he and his coaches will have to use common sense and “ease into it’’ more this year at practice.
“Some kids have [weight training] equipment at home, and some don’t,’’ Ramsey said. “Some make use of what they have — cinder blocks or bags of cement or a heavy piece of furniture around the house.
“Overall, we’re definitely going to take the approach that nobody’s been out running, nobody’s been doing what they’ve normally been doing, so the conditioning load will be light as we start. You want to avoid any chance of heat stroke or overwork. Conditioning-wise, you’ll have to build it up.’’
Batman recognizes that the coming three-week practice period will likely have higher temperatures to deal with following a delay of about a month.
“They talk about it being hot in June,’’ Batman said, “but July is even hotter. You don’t know what kind of shape they’ll be in.
“I know that part of what we were going to use July for was to make sure the kids get back in the weight room. Scale back some of the on-field stuff, and maybe spend more time in the weight room and more time watching film and maybe doing some other things to kind of get that all back. We don’t want to spend every single day of the three weeks on the field — maybe bounce back and forth, a field day, then a weight room day.’’
Snyder said he already has an idea of which players will show up better conditioned than some others due to the team’s computerized programs.
“The older guys are doing more stuff,’’ Snyder said. “We have a way of seeing who logs on with their workouts in our training app. We know who’s tracking and what they’re doing. Most of it’s the older guys, but there are some younger guys who are always in a weight room.
“I think they’ll come in OK. I don’t think anybody will be as strong as with a full season. This year, being in shape and being physically conditioned to handle the heat will be more [important].’’