Lady Redskins return to practice field

Loudon High School senior Kenia Valdizon dribbles a ball during practice Thursday at Loudon Elementary School.

The Loudon High School Lady Redskins soccer team swarmed the Loudon Elementary School soccer field last week in sheer excitement to kick off summer practice.

The Lady Redskins were forced to forego spring training due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s affected everything from raising money to strength and conditioning to any kind of preparation to, obviously, practices are nearly impossible because of sticking to the restrictions that are in place,” Sam Harrison, LHS head girls soccer coach, said. “We had our first official practice on June 2, and it just kind of felt like you were fighting with your hands tied behind your back. I do want to make one thing clear — I’m not complaining because we do have some semblance of a season ahead of us.”

Harrison voiced frustrations of the team being “behind schedule.”

“I’m just speaking from a coaching standpoint, it’s frustrating what we’re having to work through right now,” he said. “We’re learning as we go to work within these restrictions to be able to be a little bit smoother each session, I hope. We’re just waiting for that phase three to kick in, that way we can really get into soccer.”

Depth is another rising issue for the Lady Redskins. Harrison is worried about the number of incoming freshmen.

“The virus situation has also hurt us big time with numbers because with girls soccer, in particular here at Loudon, it’s important for us to be able to go and talk with those eighth-graders,” he said. “We develop a lot of players here. We don’t have the great feeder programs like Lenoir City or these other programs have. We spend a lot of time developing players here. It’s really hurt us this year because we weren’t really able to sit down and talk with those eighth-graders, so we’ve only got a handful of freshmen this year total. ... Last year, we had 15 freshmen. This year, we’ve got two or three.”

Senior Kenia Valdizon is excited to be back with teammates.

“It’s definitely different and we’ll have to get used to it, but we’ll still work hard and get it done,” Valdizon said. “We have to maintain 6 feet apart, but we still have to work together and do certain things.”

Coaches are following strict guidelines to ensure the safety of all players during practice.

Each player must check in and answer a series of questions before receiving a temperature check. Any player with a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to practice.

The Lady Redskins are also maintaining social distancing measures during practice and cannot undergo contact drills.

“Right now, we’re not allowed to have any physical contact whatsoever,” Harrison said. “Right now, we’re in three pods, and we’ll be in four pods when everybody gets back because of people going out of town. ... In those pods, it’s 6 feet apart so no contact. Right now, it’s just basically technical aspects and a conditioning aspect. We’re just doing what we can do right now.

“The girls are ready to work, and they’ve been patient,” he added. “They know that everybody’s learning as we go. They’re ready to start playing some soccer. By nature, they want to be out there and mixing it up and getting physical, but we’re just trying to keep them busy and keep their spirits up. We’ve got a lot of rust to knock off, and we’re way behind where we want to be.”

The coaching staff is pleased with how the team has responded.

“We’ll probably be behind a little bit, but it definitely gets us to push a lot harder, a lot faster,” Marietta Selby, LHS senior, said. “We all got to work on our own the past few months and everything, but we still keep contact with each other through group chats and stuff. We’ve gotten together, a couple of us for a little bit, and played a couple of times. But really, we have to take it in our own hands to work hard to do well for our team.”

Harrison encouraged the team to work on its own during the hiatus.

“Yeah, I had to work on running a lot more,” Selby said. “I’ve worked on my footwork more to be lighter, do cone drills and just work on everything myself.”

The team will continue to practice until the mandatory dead period starting June 22.

Harrison still plans to hold a weeklong summer camp the third week of July, followed by a series of scrimmages prior to the start of the regular season in August.

“The only thing that we can really work on right now is the technical aspect of the game and the conditioning aspect of the game, and if we’re starting to make progress with that, then the psychological aspect of the game will get better for them as well,” he said. “Hopefully when we get done with the dead period, we’ll be in that phase three. That’s my wishes and hopes so that way we can get out everybody. As soon as we can get on the field and start mixing it up and start working on the tactical and physical aspect of the game, I’ll feel a lot better.”