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Oklahoma high school sports: Fall coaches adjusting to coronavirus reality

Newcastle celebrates the end of the game during the Class 4A fastpitch softball final against Purcell in Shawnee on Oct. 19, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Newcastle celebrates the end of the game during the Class 4A fastpitch softball final against Purcell in Shawnee on Oct. 19, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Wednesday marks the unofficial start to the 2020-21 Oklahoma high school athletic calendar.

Cross country, fall baseball, fastpitch softball and volleyball are allowed to begin practice and start quests for state titles and more. Scrimmages in these sports are scheduled for the end of the month.

But this year is different than any before it. With the coronavirus pandemic remaining a key figure throughout the state — there were 993 reported cases on Tuesday, a new state record for a single day — numerous coaches have had to come up with plans to prepare for a season unlike before.

Here’s a look at what some local coaches have done to prepare for the season:

Kelly Beck, Piedmont cross country

What are your plans with the Piedmont cross country program?

“We just follow the protocols that the district set for us, which are pretty much what the OSSAA had out. We take temperatures both for strength and conditioning when we’re in the weight room but also when we’re out running. When we’re together as a group or we’re warming up or stretching afterwards, we’ll wear masks. While they’re running, we don’t make them wear masks. They’re supposed to maintain distance while they run. Just kind of all that stuff. Making sure they’re washing their hands. Make sure that they self-evaluate where they’re at.”

Are these changes making your job more difficult?

“It’s not that bad really. It adds a little bit to your job, but it’s not back breaking or anything. Scan the kids’ foreheads and make sure when we’re in the weight room that they’re wiping stuff down when they’re done with it. You just got to get used to it.”

Jaclyn Burroughs, Edmond North volleyball

How different is it preparing for a season with everything going on?

“It’s definitely taking a lot more planning. We have procedures for all the girls when they check in. Parents told to stay in car, girls come in by themselves. When they arrive, temp checks and asking covid-related questions. There’s a form parents have to fill out online that’s covid related. Coaches will be wearing masks, hand sanitizer for everyone who enters. Water fountains and locker rooms shut down. We’ll have places for them to do stuff and stay spread out. As we’re doing drills, keeping them spaced apart as we can. Tryouts on three different courts. It will definitely look different.”

Mike Crossley, Newcastle softball

How are you prepping for sports with practice starting?

“It’s going to be a tough task, it really is. There are no guidelines set up for this type of situation. Some people are a little looser on how they’re going to do things and some people are going to be real strict. We’re going to be strict here at Newcastle but are we going to be as strict as other people? We’re going to be playing those people, they’re going to be coming to our park, using our restrooms and our dugouts and so forth. Bus trips to and from the game, I’ve got 25 girls on the team. You can’t keep social distancing on the bus, it’s impossible. We were supposed to start practice Wednesday and I’ve already pushed it back to Monday July 20. I’m still at a loss to keep these girls safe and to maintain a safe situation for them. I’m going to call other schools before we break out Monday. That’s kind of my plan right now is to let them get a head start and see how they’re doing things. I’m going to call 10 or 12 coaches and try to get my best practice plan for Monday to keep these girls safe. But it will definitely be strict guidelines. We probably won’t even use the locker room. We’ll probably show up for practice with practice clothes on and you leave with your practice clothes on."

Heath Kufahl, Christian Heritage volleyball

How are you handling preparing for a season with new restrictions?

“The biggest thing is the uncertainty of all that we’re doing may not matter, we may not get to play anyways. Who knows what’s going to happen. That puts the athletes in a unique situation. They’re preparing but whether it goes away or goes to the spring, it’s a picture of where we’re at in life. It’s an uncertain time for a lot of people. For our girls and our school, there’s no anxiety there because we have certainty in how everything’s going to play out. We went to camp in Branson, and that was business as usual for the most part. There were restrictions on switching sides and shaking hands. Be aware of people’s health.

David Riden, Deer Creek cross country

How is the Deer Creek cross country program moving forward, and what are your plans?

“We do daily temperature checks, and they go through a screening. Screening questions are about if they’ve had a fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell and any contact with a COVID-positive person. That’s part of the daily screening process every day. And then group sizes are limited to 25 or less.”

How does your training program this summer compare to previous years?

“The overall training plan is probably similar. The application of it is quite a bit different in the sense that it’s different when you can only have 25 per session. And there are some time limitations when you talk about the summer months right now. If you’re going an hour and you have to have 30 minutes or so in between — 20 to 30 minutes in between groups to spread it out — you get to the hotter parts of the day by later morning, and you’re not able to get as many pieces of training in than you would in a normal progression. So, it’s a very scaled-down version. It’s similar, but it’s not the same.”

Cameron Jourdan

Cameron Jourdan joined The Oklahoman in March 2019 to cover high school sports. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in May 2018. He had an internship with The Oklahoman and Stillwater News Press. During his time at OSU, Cameron served in a... Read more ›

Nick Sardis

Nick Sardis joined The Oklahoman in 2017, and he covers high school sports. Born and raised in Norman, he played baseball at Norman North High School and is a student at the University of Oklahoma. Read more ›

James Jackson

James D. Jackson joined The Oklahoman in January 2020 to cover high school sports. He a University of Central Oklahoma graduate. During his time at UCO, James served as a sports reporter and Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Vista.... Read more ›