The sun cracked through the mist early Monday morning as the Loudon High School Lady Redskins volleyball team worked on skills in a slightly different environment.
Due to COVID-19 guidelines and practice limitations, the coaching staff decided to hold practice on the outdoor sand court at Loudon Municipal Park.
“It’s been great. I have missed these girls incredibly,” Jody Bunch, LHS head volleyball coach, said. “Getting out here, being in the sun, working out, passing balls, I was impressed with their work ethic today because they’ve been sitting for months. They got out there and they got after it this morning, and they’re not used to getting up at 7 a.m. It’s just been great. It gets you kind of back in the groove because you’ve not had sports in forever.”
The Lady Redskins worked on fundamentals, techniques, conditioning and strength during the first official practice of the year.
“We focused on passing, which is what we always do in June,” Bunch said. “We focused on getting the new girls up to speed. We focused on control for the other girls and getting our level passing. We focused on conditioning. Coach (Olivia) Hicks has taken that and literally ran with it, so she focused on getting them in shape.”
Seniors Mayley Cooley and Grace Hickman think the team will benefit from outdoor practices.
“I feel like in the sand it’s hotter, and so it’s like making us work harder,” Hickman said.
“It’s harder to move, but I think it’s going to strengthen our legs,” Cooley added. “Whenever we do get back to the gym, I think it will be a big help.”
The coaching staff encouraged players to work during the break.
“I think that some of us are a little bit out shape, but I’ve been trying to do stuff like at home and going places like the track and home and getting ready to play,” Cooley said. “My family’s kind of big, so we’ve kind of played in the back yard. It’s not actual volleyball but back and forth some.”
Hickman was excited to be back out with teammates.
“It’s kind of been stressing everybody out because we had a good season, and I think that we really wanted to work hard for the season,” she said. “I like that we’re getting back to it now. Today’s our first day, and I feel like everybody said that they’re out of shape, so we’ve got a long way to go for this season.”
Due to missing spring training, Bunch said the team is behind schedule and will look to speed up practices to prepare for the upcoming two-week dead period.
“Everything is in overdrive, and I probably won’t get to focus on as much stuff with the freshmen as I would like to,” she said. “Varsity will be our main focus, especially come July. We won’t have camp to go, so that will hurt us in terms of team play together, especially with scrimmages, but my main focus is building that team atmosphere. We go to team camp for that very purpose and getting them to be cohesive. I think that’s kind of what we’ve lacked the last few seasons is getting that cohesion, and so, hopefully, being outside, running, a new place, getting seniors to take a senior leadership role will help.”
Bunch is hopeful the regular season will begin on time. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has set Aug. 17 as the volleyball regular season kickoff date.
“We have had no communication about school, how it’s going to start and nothing from TSSAA about moving it back,” she said. “It’s still just a wait-and-see. We’re still going to practice like it’s on schedule and then see.”