The spring sports schedule has sat at an uncertain crossroads ever since Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services on March 13 ordered a statewide closure of all schools as a response to the coronavirus.
With the schools closed, all associated extracurricular activities are suspended as well, and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association outlined a few rules of its own.
First off, the association suspended all “training, practices, scrimmages and contests.” In addition, schools and coaches are no longer allowed to be involved with student athletes when it comes to organizing practices or encouraging assembly for independent team practices.
Still, the WIAA has not outright cancelled the spring sports season at this time. As a result, coaches and athletes need to stay prepared for the possibility of jumping back into the season if school gets back in session.
Given the uneasiness the coronavirus has caused across all walks of life, coaches and athletes in the Lake Geneva region are trying to use the hope of a season as a light at the end of the tunnel.
“My thought process is, baseball will be back at some point. We have to stay and think positive,” Williams Bay baseball coach Matthew Dunlap said.
With hopes to return to competition, but no chance for holding practices, local coaches have been forced to get creative in how they prepare their players.
Williams Bay softball coach Jeff Kuespert is no stranger to making the best of a bad situation early in the season, with inclement March weather forcing his team off their field and into a gymnasium a few times every year. So, when he heard about the WIAA cancelling practices, he knew his players could fall back on some drills they have done in years past.
“They can’t cancel playing catch with somebody, and they can’t cancel hitting off a tee into a net,” Kuespert said.
The local track teams also have a clear avenue for their athletes to continue working out, and Big Foot track and field coach Lueck says he has emailed some workouts to his team that they can do at home, running in their own neighborhoods.
Another advantage the track team has that other sports do not is that their season started on March 9. So they held nearly a week of practice before the schools closed down, while other sports had not held their first session before the coronavirus containment measures went into place. As such, Lueck’s athletes know how a practice typically is run, which is not a guarantee for other teams.
“It’s an advantage, especially with the freshman that at least had a little piece of what was expected. I assume in other sports, some of the freshmen don’t really know what to do, and we at least had a start on that,” Lueck said.
For the Big Foot/Williams Bay soccer team, practicing teamwork is essential to the learning process, as the players gain a feel for where they fit into the movement of 10 players as one. While they cannot be on the field learning firsthand, coach Rene Perez is looking to the past for lessons to apply in the future.
The ChiefDogs record their games on video, and the coaches used the online service Hudl to send the game footage out to players to watch during their quarantine to try to sharpen their mental edge if they cannot work on their physical game.
“They can pick up any mistakes they’re making as a team and as individuals,” Perez said.
While the different sports have different challenges to overcome, the common denominator is that a level of hope is driving the coaches to keep their players ready to play, if the season does end up coming to fruition, no matter how uncertain that outcome seems
“We’re kind of optimistic, but it changes every day,” Perez said.
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