What’s on the Clipboard?

Sports guidelines are changing, which means coaches have to adjust their practice routines to change as well.

Melia Rasmussen, Sports Editor

A new email appears in the inbox from your sports coach, who, like the athletes, were waiting to see whether or not practices could resume after the beginning of February. You read that athletes are able to go to the field or meet at the school, with some shifting around as only some sports are allowed to practice. The Oregon School Activities Association and Governor Kate Brown had announced in February that fall sports were allowed to begin practicing for their upcoming season. With new guidelines for COVID-19, coaches have had to continually adjust how their practices are run in order to implement the new rules.

“We haven’t had the same opportunities we’re accustomed to,” head varsity football coach Brian Mehl said. “I haven’t been indoors with our football team since December of 2019.” He said this has been his hardest season in his 12 years of coaching — and it hasn’t even started yet.

You have to be careful about who you hang out with because if you bring COVID to the team, that could jeopardize all sports.””

— June Morris, cross country coach

Traditional fall sports were scheduled to begin OSAA’s Season 2 on Feb. 22 of this year, but with the contact sport suspension, Mehl was losing hope of them having a season. However, with Governor Kate Brown’s lift of the ban on Feb. 10, football was allowed to join cross country, soccer, and volleyball to start practicing. Mehl said that focusing on things he can control helps with motivation at practice.

“A champion will adapt and they’re not going to complain or whine or make excuses for things they don’t have, they’re just going to really buckle up and figure out a way,” Mehl said.

Football has been limited on what they can do at practice; they’ve mainly focused on strength and conditioning, trying to give students an opportunity to get outside and exercise. With the limitations and so many athletes at practice, Mehl said it’s a constant reminder to put the team first. Occasional reminders to keep the mask covering the mouth and nose is necessary for some players, but otherwise does not require much discipline.

“There is heavy emphasis [on]…taking care of your personal health,” said head cross country coach June Morris. “You have to be careful about who you hang out with because if you bring COVID to the team, that could jeopardize all sports.”

The biggest thing I would [say]…is appreciate what we have and focus on that rather than what we don’t have.””

— Erik Ihde, soccer coach

According to head varsity girl’s soccer coach Erik Ihde, if a student athlete was confirmed to have a positive case of COVID-19, a two week shutdown of all sport practices would be in effect. The athlete and any others who are considered close contacts would be asked a series of questions and follow the contact tracing procedure. Coaches and trainers keep a spreadsheet and list of those who attend practices, always questioning if the athlete has had any symptoms, traveled out of state in the last 48 hours, or been in contact with anyone with a known case.

“The biggest difference is wearing masks,” Ihde said. First wearing masks last summer was very constrictive, Ihde said, as many others could agree. “But now that we’ve been doing it for months, sometimes I forget I have it on. It’s a little bit like high altitude training, your body adapts to it.”

Many coaches teach their athletes values, a philosophy that the team follows. Mehl said the important things for a football team is how they define success, because the players can win on the scoreboard, but not on the field with themselves. Or, the opposite, they might lose on the scoreboard, but win as a team with each other.

For soccer, being team-oriented is key, as well as stepping outside the comfort zone to play practice like one would a game.

“When we ask you to go out there and run, you’re not [just] walking…understanding that your race is your race, but we are a team,” Morris said. With cross country, personal responsibility is an important factor at practice. With only two coaches, Morris said they count on the more experienced runners to look out for each other, especially when they run on the road and away from the school. Even with the season starting soon, it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude.

“The biggest thing I would [say], and this is the same advice that I’m trying to follow, is appreciate what we have and focus on that rather than what we don’t have,” Ihde said. There’s not been any opportunity for the soccer team to bond like they would normally, no trips or team dinners or hanging out at school outside of practice, but despite the shorter season, Ihde hopes for athletes to create those lost connections and experiences.