FRANKLIN FURNACE — By now, in mid-July, usually Scioto County basketball clubs are preparing for the upcoming August dead period — as ordinarily mandated by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Well, welcome to the midpoint of 2020 —and unfortunately when the coronavirus threat has held a significant stranglehold on high school sports since mid-March.
In fact, in response, the OHSAA didn’t lift its imposed no-contact period until after Memorial Day, and some basketball practices for this summer —depending upon who you are — are just now heating up with the ongoing heat wave.
Although some schools, such as Notre Dame, did manage to complete the majority of its regular summer workouts as usual in June —there are others, including at Green, which are now just seeing the sweltering gymnasium for the first time since late February.
Indeed, it’s not your normal basketball summer — especially as annual area shootouts and summer leagues found themselves scrapped.
Until last week — and with the possibility of the expiration of an Ohio Department of Health order coming this week — inter-squad competition wasn’t even permitted, even as the state announced on June 18 that “contact practice” could resume.
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted said “contact practice”, otherwise outlined as “Phase 2” of the state’s “reopening” for including OHSAA-sanctioned sports, could start as of June 22 —although it was NOT required to do so.
“Phase 2 will reopen contact practice for all sports,” Husted said, during Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s ‘daily’ news conference. “This means basketball, football and other contact sports can resume (intra-squad) scrimmages and full-training regiments as long as the safety protocols are observed. The start date for Phase 2 will be June 22.”
The OHSAA already waived its “10-day rule” for the summer of 2020, so there is no limit on the number of coaching days for workouts, training, open gyms or open fields.
“As mentioned previously, the OHSAA Office has no jurisdiction over team play this summer,” OHSAA interim Executive Director Bob Goldring wrote, in a July 7 memo to member schools. “The decisions to participate in a team camp and/or compete against other teams are made by local school districts – there are no OHSAA penalties. All questions should be directed to school administrators or your local health departments who have provided you with guidance throughout this time.”
For some programs, including the Notre Dame boys and head coach Matt Mader, the one month true time frame from May 26 thru June 29 was enough — and no worries.
He said his Titans’ final full practice was on June 29, as there are several Titans which play football —with them starting practice exactly a week later.
“We are doing some shooting in groups throughout July, but are not scrimmaging or practicing. I have a group of seven or eight that are basketball-only guys and we will continue to work those guys out throughout the rest of the summer and into the preseason,” said Mader.
But others only started around Independence Day.
While West (Caleb McClanahan) and Green (Scott Blankenship) officially hired new boys head coaches on June 30, Green girls veteran coach Melissa Knapp and her Lady Bobcats “just now got back in the gym” on July 6.
“When the whole thing (OHSAA dead period) first happened, everybody was in shock and really didn’t know what to do. Everything was clear as mud. For the longest time, it was just a ‘wait-and-see’ game. We made a point over the spring to stay in touch, and I think that was the most important thing. Teenagers are trying to adapt to a new life here. They aren’t used to being cooped up at home with no sports, or at least no spring sports. We put basketball on the back burner for a bit to make sure everyone’s mental health was okay and everyone was taken care of,” said Knapp. “It was more of checking on everybody, and all of us coaches at Green were doing the same thing because we all coach the same kids.”
For their first workout back, near the end of their allotted time, the Lady Bobcats — in two groups of almost 10 — practiced some shooting drills on one end of the floor while playing a 3-on-3 intra-squad scrimmage on the other.
It was obviously quite different than them working out on their own, which they were forced to do during the dead period.
“This group is heavy on juniors and seniors, so they took it upon themselves to do a lot of workouts on their own. When we began ‘Phase 1’, there were more times they would get together as a group —be socially distant but just to see other faces. Now we’re in ‘Phase 2’, we can be back in the gym, we have up to 10 players per coach on each end. We don’t have 20 players, but we get a lot of work done in individual work and 4-on-4, 3-on-3, or 2-on-2 situations,” said Knapp. “We don’t mix the groups, although since we can use shared equipment now, we will rotate between shooting on one end and intra-squad regular practice on the other. We feel we get a lot accomplished.”
Knapp watches over one end, while her husband and assistant coach Dave keep tabs on the opposite.
Several of the Lady Bobcats compete in either volleyball or cross country for the fall, so Knapp said “skill work” —and not conditioning —is the emphasis for the summer.
In a normal summer, Green competes in the Wheelersburg Summer League —and always does a two-day team training at Sports City U in Teays Valley, W. Va.
This year, the Lady Bobcats had planned to play in one-day shootouts at West and Waverly, “usually hitting June very heavy”.
But, “contact sports competitions” — as part of “Phase 2” — previously prohibited 7-on-7 football passing scrimmages and basketball summer shootouts.
Those may be the two best examples, for this summer anyway, of what is defined as “travel between teams in geographically different areas for scrimmages.”
That’s not a main concern, though, for Notre Dame girls coach J.D. McKenzie, who once again kept his Lady Titans at home.
“This was actually a typical June for us, other than a scrimmage or two. We usually work on shooting and fundamentals in the summer, and this year we are implementing a new offensive system, so we spent a majority of the time working with the girls learning that. For the last few years, we’ve stayed away from shootouts. Those are often six games and the girls get worn out after two and can pick up a lot of bad habits. So we stay home, save some money, focus on what we need to do for two or three days a week with open gyms and can handpick our competition if we want any scrimmages,” said McKenzie. “For us, it’s just a better way of doing things and we get more out of our summer leading up to the preseason in October or November.”
Prior to Tuesday’s (July 7) order from the Ohio Department of Health, such inter-squad competitions were not permitted, but through at least July 15, they now will be.
Of course, health and safety protocols must be followed.
“Competitive games and tournaments are now permitted for contact sports,” Goldring wrote. “During this period, practices and open gyms with another team or club and inter-club/team play are also permitted so long as all teams involved agree to comply with the requirements set forth in the Director’s Order. Lt. Governor Husted emphasized that this order is extended for a short, trial basis and that the responsibility is with all of us to continue exercising safe practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
And, indeed, the coronavirus threat has resulted in an abnormal summer for Scioto County’s basketball teams.
The key has been, and remains, making the most of the precious time available.
“The girls are just anxious and eager to come in, throw the ball up and go full-go 5-on-5 up and down the court. They are ready to get back to some competition,” said Knapp. “This is true for everybody that was supposed to have spring sports, but didn’t get to do that. The last true organized competition they had, if they didn’t have a spring sports scrimmage in March, was their last basketball tournament game. These girls gave me 110-percent today, and that was a very nice surprise. It’s a different feel right now and I don’t know what to think, but basically everybody is in the same boat. Take advantage of the time we’re together.”
Reach Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved