Local teams ready to report back

Lenoir City High School sophomore Helen Harper shoots a layup during practice in June.

High school teams in Loudon County are itching to get back to work as they hit the halfway mark of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s mandated two-week dead period.

The Loudon High School volleyball team practiced for two weeks.

“From the circumstances that we had to endure, we’re in a pretty good condition,” Jody Bunch, LHS head volleyball coach, said. “We had two weeks of solid practice where we did fundamentals. We wrapped up some of the basics — passing, defense and such — and then hopefully when we come back from the dead period, we’ll be in phase 3. Then we can move onto some of the more intricate things of playing, actually getting six people on the court at a time and being on an actual court.”

The Greenback School girls soccer team benefitted from the first full month of practice June 19.

“Wrapping up was very strong. We had a very good June with practices or workouts,” Rob Fox, Greenback head girls soccer coach, said. “Judging it by an excitement standpoint, interest and the girls’ engagement, they’ve been very, very good. I’m very encouraged by that. Things have been more challenging with the whole COVID-19 thing, but that aside, the girls are just showing a lot of enthusiasm.”

Many high school coaches in the state expressed disappointment in the TSSAA’s decision to keep the dead period despite missing nearly 10 weeks of school and practices, which leaves some concerned about players quickly getting out of shape after a short return in June.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen when we get back. I mean, it’s kind of been a blind thing,” Tim Smith, Lenoir City High School girls basketball coach, said. “Some of the girls are working on their own at home, some are on an AAU team. Of course, my big worry is are we going to be able to play and what’s going to happen with school? It’s kind of put us on a path to the unknown, and I’m not sure if they’re even going to put us on phase 3 yet.”

Bunch and Fox both sent athletes workout plans to complete during the dead period.

The TSSAA rulebook states that during the dead period, “No coaching, observing or contact between coach and players in sport involved. There is no practice, no open facilities and no weight training/conditioning.”

“I sent them with a packet that they could do workouts,” Bunch said. “We worked really hard on getting their stamina back up because a lot of them didn’t do anything for several months, as most people in quarantine did. They just needed exercise, so I sent them with a packet. I encouraged the seniors to lead them in some Zoom workouts.”

“I had a lot of girls before dead period ask me for written workouts that they could do on their own, so we have furnished that to them,” Fox added. “As far as I know, they’re doing it. The reason I feel that way is I’ve been getting text messages saying they’ve been working on this, that and the other, which is nice to see.”

All athletic activities across the state are still under phase 2, which allows for no more than 50 people outside and no more than 10 inside. Coaches are hopeful to advance to phase 3 when the dead period ends Monday.

“This is where we traditionally have turned the corner in terms of our practices become more like a real soccer practice,” Fox said. “We start doing some light scrimmages, we start playing each other, more ball work and that type of thing. The girls are excited to do that, and I’m excited as a coach where we stand. Everything up until now is up for speculation. If you or someone asks where we are in terms of our quality, I can only tell you what I hope for. When July hits, we’ll start to see the reality of where we are.”