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After a 3-month layoff, Central Mountain coaches are preparing to practice

A return to play is on the horizon in the Keystone Central School District. The school board last Thursday evening adopted guidelines for return to play that was constructed by a committee consisting of administration, the athletic department, training staff, coaches and others. The guidelines allow for sports to resume offseason activities effective Wednesday.

While that is a date that is being anticipated by many, it is one that provides a later than usual start to offseason activities for most athletes and teams. It will be the first allowable organized trainings within the district since mid-March when all athletics were put on hold by Gov. Tom Wolf, the PIAA and school district in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, while July is a bit later than normal for most to get started, it is a date that is perhaps sooner than many would maybe have expected and hoped for considering the ongoing situation with the virus. Therefore, with an opening date in sight to begin organized activities, several Central Mountain coaches were asked a number of questions pertaining to the three-and-a-half month layoff from athletics, as well as the long awaited and highly anticipated start date for resumption of activities July 1.

Coaches were asked both how they believe the long layoff and delayed start has impacted their athletes and teams off-season preparations, as well as what they hope to accomplish during the shortened voluntary off-season period that will run through Aug. 7.

JEFF BRINKER

(Girls soccer coach)

Brinker said that while his team is getting a late start this year, so too are his team’s opponents as this is not a situation limited to Clinton County. Brinker has been suggesting workout ideas to the his athletes during the layoff and is hoping that they have been doing some of the work on their own to improve their skills and conditioning.

He says that when his players return to organized activities he will get to assess their conditioning and his three goals for the offseason are:

— Build their cardio

— Work on fundamental foot skills

– Develop some team unity when they are together and are able to do so.

Brinker is hopeful for a solid turnout to workouts so that the girls are prepared to work and compete at a high level while avoiding injuries once the fall preseason rolls around.

As for a bright spot due to the layoff, Brinker said, “I’m betting that with all of this time off the girls will be itching to get back together and kick the soccer ball around.”

SCOTT GARMEN (Volleyball coach)

Garmen said that he is a firm believer in taking time off from a sport. However, he is finding difficulty in identifying much positive in the down time this year because of the longevity of the period. Garmen feels that the shutdown has had a major impact on the athletes and team by them not being able to get into the gym and work on skills.

Some things he had hoped to work on during the offseason will now need to be developed in season. He feels that communication has taken a hit as well and momentum has been broken.

Regarding his goals for the offseason, he says, “I’m not worried about conditioning. We can work on that. We need to re-capture the chemistry and excitement for the sport and being together again.”

Fall sports are not the only ones that attempt to make the most of the summer months to develop athletes and teams. The summer is a very important time for winter sports as well. Given the complexity of basketball from a skill development standpoint, the sport relies heavily on the summer as a time for that development to occur.

TYLER BARDO

(Boys basketball coach)

Bardo, despite the loss of time this year, sees some potential positive.

“My hope is that Central Mountain athletes have used this time to see what part CM athletics play in their lives. It’s easy to take the ‘every day for granted (approach).’ This lay-off should have rejuvenated athletes,” Bardo said. “I look forward to the enthusiasm and focus our kids should be coming back with.”

Bardo recognizes that even upon return to play, the guidelines in place will require a different approach to workouts than in years past.

“Not being able to play as often is a detriment, especially for basketball. So much of the game and how our staff prefers to teach it requires live play to get a feel for decision-making. We will need to alter drills in order to work that aspect,” Bardo said.

Despite some of the limitations that are in place regarding group work and live action, Bardo feels that the next six weeks offers his athletes an opportunity to get in shape and improve from a skill standpoint by returning to the fundamentals of the game.

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What is true is that this off-season has already shaped up as being very unique. It is shorter than usual and there are limitations as to what teams can do. However, return to play is finally here and it’s providing coaches, athletes and teams the opportunity to get back onto the fields, the course, in the gym or wrestling room and do some work that perhaps might not have been thought possible this summer.

As the old saying goes, better late than never. What can also be said is that six weeks is a whole lot better than nothing. Due to the shortness of the offseason, coaches are being forced to take a different approach than in years past. Athletes who are serious must also take a different approach.

Dedication to each session will be necessary as they will be much fewer. Attendance and commitment to hard work at each session will be key. With a focus almost solely on conditioning and skills, athletes will have an opportunity to get better. Taking advantage of that long awaited opportunity is up to each individual.

Nobody can make that decision for them. Choosing wisely now will go a long way in determining how successful they are when their regular seasons roll around.

For each athlete, they will be asked “what did you do this summer?” How they respond will be based on how they treat the opportunities that they are about to have.

Yes, offseason workouts are voluntary, but so too is each individual’s decision as to whether they want to work, get better and ultimately play.

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