Monday marked the beginning of the third week of workouts for football, second week for volleyball and first week for boys basketball at Cartersville High.
But each had something in common. This was the first opportunity for any of the teams to have sport-specific equipment at workouts, as the GHSA's ban on things such as footballs, volleyballs and basketballs came to an end Monday.
"It kind of gives them a little bit more hope and made it feel a little bit more real to them this week," Canes head football coach Conor Foster said of being able to use a football at the non-mandatory workouts. "It was fun to see the enthusiasm for the kids to get to really work on their craft a little bit more than just strength and conditioning stuff.”
To be clear, there was still plenty of time for the strength and conditioning aspects of their workouts. Foster said the roughly three-hour sessions were split into nearly equal sections of weightlifting, conditioning and drills with the football.
Although, he noted the latter still involved plenty of conditioning.
“Even within the field work, you want to be high tempo, high energy,” Foster said. “That should be a huge part of your conditioning, as well. It shouldn’t be something separate.
"We want our practices to model the pace that we play at.”
Alicen Pearson feels the same way. The new Cartersville volleyball coach is likewise looking to mix her conditioning and volleyball-related activities into a workout that her players find more enjoyable than just doing sprints.
"I tried to incorporate running or continuous movement into those drills," Pearson said. "It's still kind of conditioning, but it involved the ball."
Boys basketball coach Mike Tobin said it was great seeing his players in the gym again. For it being their first day back, Tobin was impressed with what his players were able to fit into their initial 105-minute workout Monday.
"It's amazing how much shooting we got in and how much conditioning we got in," he said. "We're not super concerned about conditioning right now, because we don't play our first game until November. But we worked on footwork, and each kid probably got like 500 shots."
The other significant development in the GHSA's ever-evolving return-to-play model was that Monday represented the first chance for programs to utilize groups of up to 50 individuals.
Cartersville's football and volleyball programs still had to hold two sessions to fit everyone.
“I thought our kids handled it really well,” Foster said of the change. “We talked about being flexible, being accountable and understanding the obstacle in front of us is our journey. We need to make the most of it. ...
“Every week has been a little bit unique with what the GHSA has allowed us to do. Very pleased with the response of our kids.”
Taking over the volleyball program as an outside hire, Pearson has used the splitting of workout groups to allow for an "unbiased" approach to meeting her players. She essentially broke down every class into equal parts with returning varsity players split up, as well, to give everyone a fresh start, so to speak.
"I'm giving them opportunities to step up and show me their leadership," Pearson said. "I did that last week, and I'm continuing that this week. I've seen several girls step up, so I'm excited to see who is going to be the leaders on the court and who wants to push themselves to take that initiative.
"It's not always the seniors. It's been some of the underclassmen, so I was excited to see that."
Tobin needed just a single session, because more than two-thirds of his players are participating in football. Even still, he's got two likely starters in Kam Callahan and Robert Novak to himself, while also getting time to work with a few possibly key contributors, such as Tyriek Hammock, Romo Pace and Jynerieus Stanley.
"Our biggest things we want to work on this summer are getting stronger with the ball, fine-tuning our passing and improving our shooting percentage," Tobin said. "They are pretty realistic goals, and that's what our focus is going to be on."
Even with the loosening of restrictions, the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak were still being felt Monday.
Scrimmages are still not allowed, and the GHSA released a clarification Monday that activities such as playing one-on-one in basketball or seven-on-seven in football were not permitted. Basically, if social distancing cannot occur, then that activity cannot take place.
Tobin is looking forward to the possibility of greater relaxing of the rules and regulations following the upcoming dead week. He thinks being able to play one-on-one or two-on-two would greatly help his players work on their defense.
While his athletes would enjoy scrimmaging against other schools, Tobin isn't too upset about having some extra time for inward focus this offseason.
"A lot of times in the summer, I think you play too many games and don't work enough on the fundamentals," he said. "It's kind of nice, in a way, you don't have a choice."
CHS athletic director Darrell Demastus said Monday that the school's softball and girls basketball teams would begin their sport-specific work Tuesday. Overall, this week is a sign fall sports and beyond could eventually return to full capacity.
At least, that's the hope.
“Pleased that we’re progressing, not only as an individual program but also as a state,” Foster said. “Everybody has responded well to what the GHSA has asked us to do. Just pleased that we’re continuing to move forward. I hope that’s a good omen for things to come.”