Though the sports world has come to a screeching halt over the past two weeks, the Indiana High School Athletic Association along with area coaches and athletes are all still holding out hope of having at least an abbreviated spring sports season.
While that question of if remains to be answered, the date Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has targeted for students to return to school on May 1 is also when spring sports might begin, six weeks after the usual start of spring practices.
The IHSAA has made some adjustments to its practice policy which states in part that athletes must have 10 practices completed before being allowed to compete. That number has been lowered to five practices, but an abbreviated season likely also means a concentrated season, more competitions in a shorter time.
With that in mind, many local coaches have developed practice plans for their athletes to try and follow while adhering to the state ordered, stay-at-home mandate.
“The message I left them was, if we do have a season, what type of season you have is still in your control if and when we come back,” said Oak Hill’s track and field coach Paige Brunner.
Through social media, texts and emails, Brunner has been able to monitor some of the work his athletes are doing and has generally been pleased with what he’s seen. He also added that for most of his athletes, other than perhaps his distance runners, doing a lot of training away from school is something that is new to most.
“I didn’t want to get in a situation where I gave kids a schedule,” Brunner said. “We just wanted to put something out for them that said look, if you’re a sprinter of a jumper, the goal is can you do x amount of things four days a week. Distance kids here’s your mileage.
“I emailed some kids personally that need more specific details in their workouts,” he continued. “Like a lot of schools we’ve signed out a hurdle or two, some wickets, some shot puts. I know our throwers have been able to get together a few times at one of the other throwers houses because they have a large basketball court to throw off of and we gave them a routine to do there.”
Part of the workout routine for Eastbrook’s athletes is being administered through e-learning by weight class teacher Jeff Liddick, who is the strength and conditioning coach for all Panther athletes.
Liddick said the message to his students before schools shut down was two-fold.
“The big message on our last day of school was to keep up on all your e-learining work because that could determine eligibility next fall,” Liddick shared. “Then the other big message was stay active. Whether it’s getting up and doing some sort of body weight workout or picking up some tree limbs around the house, just keep yourself active.
“We’ve had one week of e-learning and we had four assignments. Of those four assignment, two of them were active body-weight workouts,” he added. “The first one was pretty simple and the second was a little more difficult. The kids were saying through email how much they appreciated it and how it got them out of bed and got them moving. … There’s not a whole lot of back and forth conversation with the kids, but from what I see on social media and the two assignments we had, its seems like they are doing their best to stay active and stay on top of their other school work.”
The spring sports season includes boys and girls track and field, baseball, softball, girls tennis and boys golf.
Liddick said there was ways to be creative with strength training simply using an athletes body weight as a means to maintain and even build muscle mass.
Body-weight workouts is also something Mississinewa baseball coach Mike Scott has asked his players to do at home to try and stay conditioned. But baseball and softball players also have a unique skill set that needs to be sharpened prior to a season, particularly pitchers, and its something that concerns Scott even in a regular-length season.
“I worry from the pitcher’s stand (point) more than anything. That’s what’s going to be the most difficult,” Scott said. “Every year I have a low pitch count for our pitchers anyway. That’s on a normal season. It’s not worth it to me to injure a kid or risk the potential injury. Everything that we’re going through is just going to be magnified so much more.”
Scott has also passed on some baseball-specific drills to his players that can be done at home to help sharpen their necessary skills.
“We’ve tried to communicate things, a home a drill series, a thing we call wall-ball, which is nothing more than throwing a tennis ball against the wall,” he said “That goes through our mechanical series of how we teach to field a ground ball. Things like that that kids can do at home.”
“If we get the green light come the first of May it’s gonna be a sprint to the finish,” Scott added. “We need to be as prepared as we can but understanding all of us are in this boat together. When the season starts we’re all probably going to be pretty similar.”