The bleary-eyed but enthusiastic Bath football players are ready for practice at 8 a.m. on an unusually chilly Monday in June. Some were so eager to practice they showed up an hour early.
After more than 10 weeks of inactivity and working out on their own, the Wildcats find themselves back on the field albeit in a new and unorthodox situation.
Bath, like a number of area schools, began off-season training Monday and while there is protocol to be followed the players are happy to be back with their teammates.
“It is feels good to get back out here instead of working out at home,” senior Bath quarterback Dallin McDermott said. “It is really important to get all the players back together and build that bond that we used to have.”
Fellow senior and middle linebacker Trey Johnson echoed his teammate and said he is feels comfortable getting back to practice.
“It is important because we get to build a bond with each other and go have fun,” Johnson said. “We can be together and work out and get better as a team. It is better for our senior year because we can pass this down to everyone else.”
Bath head coach Ryan Reindel, entering his second season, greets his players prior to working out and reminds them of the “hoops” they are going to have to jump through.
“The team is more important than the individual,” Reindel reminds his players as he breaks the 45 players who showed up for the first day of conditioning into groups of eight.
“There has been a lot of organizing through administration and communication through our athletic director and all the different coaches,” Reindel said. “We laid out a program that keeps our social distancing and allows our kids to get back and work out and it is best to get our teams back as a group.”
The first 14 days will focus on core and agility and getting back into athletic shape.
Following the guidelines laid out by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Bath enters phase one of a three phase system to ensure the safety of his players and prevent the coronairus from spreading or spiking.
Prior to the workout, players are greeted with a thermometer to the forehead as dictated by protocol.
During the workouts, coaches are constantly aware of social distancing and reminding players to stay six feet apart.
“We have put them in to groups of eight and we are going to have kids moving that group together through six different stations whether it be on the track or the field in different workouts and just trying to get them back to normal as close as we can.”
Reindel added that this the first step in the process,
“it is just nice to get back together and get some normalcy and get these guys in here and working out because the ultimate goal is to play in August but now is the time to train and we lost some time and we are going to try and make it back up now.”
Lima Central Catholic also welcomed back athletes Monday and athletic director and baseball coach John Schnieders said numerous meetings and planning with fellow coaches were held to plan and protect the student athletes.
“We got the guidance from the health department and the OHSAA the Thursday before Memorial Day and to be honest with you it kind of took me by surprise how sudden the doors were open for us to get kids back into the facilities so we did not open last week,” Schnieders said. “We spent the last week putting together our specific safety protocols and procedures with the guidance they had provided but adapting it to our facilities.”
Like Bath, LCC is started its first phase Monday for the respective sports.
“We are really trying to convey and communicate the expectations to the parents and the student-athletes and say ‘Hey, this is the way it has to be.’”
Like all the schools a waiver will need to be signed by the student-athletes’ parents.
Schnieders admits it is a new world but is is vitally important they follow the protocol laid out by the schools and the OHSAA.
“I think all schools are like this,” Schnieders said. “You are in kind of like a family oriented atmosphere where you are getting into the summer and this is where you build rapport with the kids. It is off-season for everybody. They are working hard but it is kind of a relaxed environment and this kind of adds a layer of stress to coaches because they are the point person making sure all the procedures are being followed.”
Schnieders, who is the head baseball coach, is feeling that first hand. He held his first baseball practice Monday afternoon.
“The kids are just chomping at the bit to get back here and have some sense of normalcy again. I don’t think I am going to have any issues with our kids following the guidelines,” Schnieders said. “I think they are excited to be around their friends and coaches and getting back to hopefully what will be a normal fall season.”
Like Bath the first two weeks for LCC will be done outdoors and focus on conditioning because a number of the students.
One thing Schnieders said this pandemic is a life lesson.
“From my standpoint and I think the kids feel this way too is that you take these opportunities for granted sometimes,” Schnieders said. “I think what is going to come out of this is that the kids are going to appreciate them a lot more. I know as a baseball coach and losing a season you will never take it for granted again because you have it taken away when you never see it coming.”