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Hoping To Get A Spring Season In And Keep Athletes In Top Shape

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

Welcome to the new normal in high school athletics.

With winter sports cancelled and spring sports in serious jeopardy, thousands of high school students in the area, hundreds of thousands across the state and millions across the country are in limbo due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Section 9 has postponed athletic competition until at least April 30, as have the majority of Dutchess County high schools, and Section 1 is likely to follow with an official announcement shortly that it, too, will postpone high school sports until at least April 30.

From there, everybody is on optimism and a wing and a prayer.

To that end, coaches are still keeping in touch with players, using every piece of media they can including apps like Zoom to have a virtual face-to-face, and working with trainers to keep everybody in shape – mentally and physically – in the hopes there will be an abbreviated spring season.

“We are impressing on the kids the importance of working out on their own to improve strength, endurance, agility and stickwork while maintaining their social distance,” Highland boys lacrosse coach Tom Schlappich said.

“I’ve talked to the kids about just taking each day at a time. We had our last practice (two weeks ago) and I handed out our uniforms and did a photo shoot. I wanted them to feel special and feel like a team,” Putnam Valley softball coach Rena Finsmith said. “We’ve talked about whatever days we do have to make it the best time out there and to work as hard as we can with whatever time we are given. Whatever happens with this season, we will be ready in whatever capacity the state or Section 1 decides. Either way, the team will make sure our seniors will have their special day.”

Putnam Valley boys lacrosse coach Tim Weir said he advised his team to err on the side of caution.

“I told my kids first of all to take care of themselves and try not to go out in public places,” he said. “Their health is the most important factor in this. My kids will run captain practices (players only, no coaches) as much as possible.”


Finsmith said she is using an app to stay in contact with the players and has put together a workout that includes situps, pushups, burpees and cardio.

“Just things they can do at home,” she said. “I’m actually encouraging them to reconnect with their families i.e, put down that phone/tablet, care and look out for one another. I want them to know that even though times are strange and uncertain, there is a support system for them through not just our team but their schools, teachers and families, and to reach out if they are feeling anxious or nervous about this situation.”

But it’s not just spring sports that are affected.

By now, football teams are well into their offseason weightlifting programs. Or would be, anyway. One might think it would be easy to replicate a lifting schedule, but the emergency lockdown in New York State has closed all non-essential businesses, including gyms.

“The use of technology has always been a big part of our sport, but that holds true now more than ever. From the physical standpoint, I send our players an at-home workout daily. These workout plans operate under the assumption that the players have no equipment to utilize, so they are quite different than what we normally do,” said Arlington football coach Mike Morano, who added that the plans are sent through Hudl technology includes links to videos that show them how to do exercises they may not be familiar with. “The biggest drawback to not being in the weight room is losing the ability to build that team chemistry and just be together as a family. From a mental standpoint, we have also started having virtual installation meetings using Hudl and various video conferencing programs. It’s not the best-case scenario, but it does allow us to begin teaching our offensive, defensive, and special teams schemes.”

Morano still has a spring and a summer before his season starts. Presumably, even if the virus doesn’t peak until mid-May, as some medical experts have predicted, he has time.

Spring coaches are not so fortunate.

“We are holding out hope that we will be able to get back at it after May 1. Realistically, we would need only about a week to be ready for games,” Schlappich said. “That said, I believe younger, less experienced teams, as well as those with small rosters, will arguably be at somewhat of a disadvantage with a quick restart and condensed schedule. But at this time, it would be a dilemma I would gladly welcome vs. the alternative.”

But is a week enough?

Athletic trainer Megan Gebert, one of the best in the Hudson Valley, is in her 14th year overall including the last 10 with Marlboro. She has told athletes to stay active every day for bot mental and physical health. She believes the students can get a good workout session at home.

“Absolutely. Doing high intensity interval training with body weight exercises can be done in your living room with no equipment, and you can get a seriously challenging workout in,” Gebert said. “I find that at the secondary school setting many athletes who are strong enough to bench press their body weights are not strong enough to do a push up with good form. Why? Because of weakness in their cores and stabilizing muscles. I think this is a great opportunity to work on full body movements and quality technique, which will improve their athleticism and reduce future injury risk. The biggest challenge isn’t finding the workouts, it’s finding motivation without a routine and a coach right there to make you complete it.”

That doesn’t mean she isn’t concerned, however.

The biggest issue she anticipates when athletes return is that they will not have done as much sport-specific training as needed, and that the volume of their at-home workouts won’t have been consistent. Conditioning will be huge, as well as technique work.

“Physically, my biggest concern will be muscle strains,” Gebert said. “Our 10-day mandatory practice period may be waived, which means athletes will be competing and trying to sprint and make explosive demands on muscles that are not ready. I expect a big handful of hamstring/adductor/hip flexor strains primarily.”

And, of course, there is the mental aspect.

Gebert said she will caution the athletes, or have the coaches do it, that track standouts might not hit their personal bests in the outdoor season. Or baseball and softball players might not have eye-popping stats in a truncated eight-game season as they normally might.

“I think realistically, if we return this season – and I hope we do – these athletes are going to have to make major mental readjustments,” she said. “However, I do think we often underestimate the resiliency of young people. I believe they will come back and do a lot better both physically and mentally than most of us anticipate. I think they would be happy to have any kind of season versus none at all.”




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