By Josh Brown
and Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
MIAMI COUNTY — While the focus remains on whether or not spring sports will happen, Miami County’s football coaches are beginning to wonder what their summers might look like.
But even with the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, causing the cancellation of Ohio’s winter sports’ postseason tournaments and indefinitely postponing the start of spring sports, the area’s football coaches are currently moving forward thinking that the fall season and even their summer preseason workouts will go off without a hitch, and should complications arise, they’ll deal with them when and as they come.
“I’d be lying if I said the possibility of our season being postponed hadn’t crept into my head. But I can tell you that we’re still preparing like there is no possibility of that happening,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “We’re trying to take advantage of some of the positives of this, like having extra time to do summer planning, and we’re also sending the kids workouts so the stay engaged and making sure they have everything they need.”
The schools themselves are closed until at least May 1 — with the potential existing that they could remain closed longer as that date gets closer. Until then, spring sports teams are not allowed to get together for official practices, but the coaches and players can still remain in touch communications-wise for everyone’s mental well-being due to the social distancing guidelines and Ohio’s “Stay at Home” order.
Football-wise, though, teams aren’t scheduled to get together for official organized practices until the 10 practice days in the months of June and July, with the full preseason not kicking off until August.
“We’re in such unprecedented territory right now,” Tippecanoe coach Matt Burgbacher said. “You get used to seeing these kids every day in school, and then going on three weeks now we haven’t seen anyone in school. Just texting and talking with them, you can tell everyone’s in unfamiliar territory. But with our guys, we’re keeping a positive attitude and helping them appreciate what we do have when we have it.”
Covington football coach Ty Cates has emphasized focusing on the positive with his players.
“The number one thing is the players focusing on schoolwork and getting to spend some quality time they wouldn’t have otherwise had with their families,” Cates said. “With all the negative right now, we are trying to focus on the positive.
“I already know of two brothers who have been bonding and becoming closer during this time, which is a great thing.”
Piqua coach Bill Nees is never without a plan — even when it comes to the coronavirus.
The Indians have completed phase A of adapting and are on to phase B.
“Plan A was the workouts and running, now plan B is we are going to send them more specific things to work on for their skill positions. This will give them a little change of pace and hopefully that will help.”
Since schools closed, the Piqua football players have been working on weightlifting, if they can, and conditioning.
“Really we didn’t miss anything because we take a one-week break after winter (lifting),” Nees said. “About half of our players have weights at home and about half don’t. So the ones that can’t do workouts with weights, we sent them workouts to do for their body weight.
“We set up a Google Classroom, and all of our players have checked in.”
Everyone else is in the same boat, as well.
“We had a great winter and were in the second week of our spring lifting,” Gress said. “This is probably the strongest our team has been in the time I’ve been here. And we’re so fortunate to have Aaron Gibbons, who is the best strength coach around. He posts interactive videos so they can do workouts at home, and if they don’t have weights, then they can still use those movements and techniques with anything they’ve got around.”
Cates is concerned about the work the Buccaneers were not able to do in the weight room this spring.
“The big concern is the gains we would normally get in the weightroom,” Cates said. “A lot of our kids are in spring sports, so they are working with their spring coach (on conditioning and things like that).
“Most of our kids don’t have weights at home, so we send them body workouts to do. Hopefully, they will spend more time running or throwing a football, whatever they can do while practicing social distancing.”
“The nice thing for us is, with the online strength training program system that our athletic boosters purchased for us, the kids’ workouts are right there on their phones,” Burgbacher said. “And this platform has created at-home workouts so the kids don’t necessarily need a squat rack or a bench press to do them.
“We are all on a level playing field here. It’s not us sitting at home and the other nine teams in our league all out working out. We’re all in the same boat, doing what we can with what we have. And this is where the culture of your program — what the kids are doing when you’re not there, when you’re not watching — will be evident.”
Nees, like everyone else, isn’t sure what the future holds.
“We were on a two-week plan, and now we are on a four-week plan,” Nees said. “We will have to see what happens.”
“We are in uncharted territory here,” Cates said. Obviously, we are going to have to rely on Hudl a lot more to stay in contact with them and do clinic type things (if they are not able to do what they would normally do in June and July). We are going to need to get creative.”
But everyone knows what’s truly important.
“The main thing is we just want them to stay in a routine,” Nees said. “Getting up in the morning at the same time, eating at the same time and doing their schoolwork at the same time.”
“We want to make sure the kids are eating and staying healthy, doing their schoolwork and that they have a routine in place so they can hit the ground running in the summer,” Gress said. “We’re gameplanning for the summer and doing what we would be doing right now anyway. We’re all just doing it safely.”
“The main thing is for all of them to stay safe and practice social distancing,” Cates said.
“Our thought process is just give us a chance. All we want is a chance to coach these kids,” Burgbacher said. “We want the whole summer, obviously, but if we have to give up some of that for everyone’s safety, that’s what’s most important. If we only get two weeks in July? Let’s do it. If we have to wait until August? We’ll wait. There’s just too many unknowns right now, but making sure the kids have a routine, are doing their classwork and are staying healthy is the most important thing right now.”
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