Area coaches encouraging athletes to stay active

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Area high school coaches have never experienced anything like the COVID-19 outbreak that has canceled school and suspended athletics until at least early May.

Most are handling it in the same way, while all have a similar message to their athletes.

Stay active.

“We are trying to encourage athletes to go out everyday and get a workout in,” North Montgomery track and field coach Josh Thompson said.

Thompson says they have treated this first week of no school like they would spring break; posting suggested workouts for each day of the week.

The track and field program has also taken to Twitter to help promote and encourage a daily workout. And many other North Montgomery coaches and administrators have joined in.

“I am not in season, but we have over 80% of soccer players in a spring sport right now,” North Montgomery girls’ soccer coach Julie Hodges said. “I just want to be there for my players, and all Charger athletes. I contact my soccer players daily to check in. I have joined the track team with some challenges that we can highlight their work on Twitter. We are doing a juggling challenge to work on ball skills that they can use as a break between e-learning.”

Thompson says staying positive with the athletes is a priority, while the uncertainty concerning spring sports remains.

“We just have to continue to put out a positive message and be honest with the kids where we are with the situation,” he said. “We have to be positive and keep kids engaged.”

For Southmont track and field coach Desson Hannum, he is fortunate enough to have a lot of Mounties athletes in PE classes, and is taking advantage of the E-Learning format to reach them.

“I am lucky that I have a lot of our athletes in my PE classes,” he said. “I have posted workouts for them everyday on Google classroom. I have posted speed workouts to our athletes using our Remind App. It is definitely a situation that I couldn’t have imagined when we started Track in Feb. Biggest thing we can do is encourage them to stay active and ready for when the time comes. Athletes that want to be successful will continue to work and stay motivated during this time. I hold out hope that our spring athletes will get to compete this year.”

Southmont girls’ tennis coach Rob Reimondo and Fountain Central softball coach Ric Walke see the possibility of a canceled spring sports season as a detriment to the hard work their athletes have put in.

“Our seniors were very upset when they got the news,” Walke said. “A lot of work put in during the offseason with a lot of determination to really do something this year.”

The Mustangs are set to return 10 varsity players this spring, and Walke believes they will be able to almost pick up right where they left off if given a chance to resume the season.

“I don’t think we will lose that much,” he said. “These girls are softball players and if we come back I think there will be a lot of extra effort. This is a determined group.”

Fountain Central was four days into practices when their season abruptly came to a halt.

For Southmont tennis, the Mounties were gearing up for a chance to win their first sectional title in 24 years.

“At this point my hope is that the season can still be salvaged in some abbreviated form,” Southmont coach Rob Reimondo said. “Maybe just play the other county schools and then have sectionals.  South not won a girls tennis sectional since 1996 and this was shaping up to be our year. If it’s totally canceled, it will certainly make our very narrow loss last year even more bitter, especially for our seniors.”

Crawfordsville girls’ tennis coach Jeff Strickland has a much different perspective. Jeff and his wife Stephanie, who helped coach the Athenians last spring, are set to take back over the program, who graduated four seniors last season. The Stricklands led the Athenians to sectional titles in 2012 and 2013.

“Part of me is I have no idea,” Strickland said. “This was suppose to be the first week of practice. We have 28 girls, this is our first year with these girls, and we still have to do cuts. We lost four players from varsity last year and then have 16 freshmen. We haven’t even seen half our team play tennis, and I can’t tell you much about them at all.”

While Strickland was looking forward to the upcoming season, his main concern is with the seniors.

“The hardest thing is just thinking about those seniors,” he said.

While all spring athletes can take advantage of ways to stay active at home, golf is one sport where athletes can continue a normal practice routine during the hiatus.

“I told them to get out and play,” North Montgomery boys’ golf coach Nick Johnson said. “Nothing is stopping you from playing nine holes on your own, so get out on your own. If we have a condensed season we need to be ready for that.”

Johnson, who is the Facilities and Grounds Director at Rocky Ridge Golf Club, which is also the Chargers’ home course, says the course has remained open so far which gives his athletes a chance to go play on their own.

The biggest hurdle for him has been communication with his players. Follow coach Johnson and the North Montgomery golf team on Twitter at @NmCharger.

Fountain Central girls’ tennis coach David Kight says he’s frustrated for his seniors, but believes all of his players understand that this is much bigger than sports.

“It’s tough for the players and especially seniors, who we hope didn’t play their last match last season,” he said. “At the same time, there is a much larger issue going on in the world and I think our players realize that sports and even school have to take a backseat to the Coronavirus at this time. I just hope and pray that we all take the necessary precautions as a state and country and get through this as safely and with as little loss of life as possible.”

Hodges wants us all to remember that what sports teach us can be used in the coming weeks, and even months as we face new challenges each and every day.

“I just want to make sure they are taking care of their mental health,” she said. We work and train so hard for four short years of participation in high school sports. To get part of that taken away from you for something out of your control can be overwhelming. So, we are trying to encourage them to control what they can. That is why sports are so good in teaching us. We have faced defeat and disappointment before. We have also triumphed and overcome in sports. That’s why sports are so important in teaching these life lessons that we are using in our reality today. These athletes are resilient, and they will come out stronger in the end.”

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