The Cartersville football team went through plenty of drills during workouts Tuesday at the school's practice field adjacent to Weinman Stadium. Some of those even involved players running in …
The Cartersville football team went through plenty of drills during workouts Tuesday at the school's practice field adjacent to Weinman Stadium.
Some of those even involved players running in sandpits. It was oddly fitting since the players themselves, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, could only work out in waves.
When the GHSA announced that high school athletes could return to campus for conditioning and weightlifting workouts, beginning this past Monday, the governing body included several restrictions in hopes of lessening the chances of an outbreak.
One of the most important involved limiting the number of players and coaches able to be together at one time to 20. In total, the Canes have been split up into six groups — five of them work out at the high school and one, comprised mostly of rising freshmen, does so at the middle school.
"Each workout consists of about 45 minutes of lifting and roughly 45-50 minutes of conditioning and drill work," Cartersville head coach Conor Foster said Tuesday. "Obviously, we're continuing to respect social distancing. It's not necessarily football-specific activities. We're not able to have any pads or football equipment. You can go through footwork drills and agility drills that translate over onto the football field. We break up the week. We have some speed days; we have some agility days; and we have some pure conditioning days.
"Again two days in, it's been new for our kids but productive and exciting. I've been really pleased with how they've responded."
When it came to placing the kids in groups, Foster said the team considered several different strategies. They also sought outside input before tackling the issue.
"We called around and tried to gather as much information as we could from other programs to see how other people were doing it," Foster said. "Ultimately, we tried to put our kids in groups we thought would be able to grow and encourage each other. We felt like two days into it, we have really productive groups. Kids are excited about the work and responded really well."
Even still, there's no way to sugarcoat it. Teams are having to make the best of a difficult situation.
Foster, for one, hopes this first stage of a return proves successful enough to lead to a further reopening in the not-so-distant future. For the time being, though, he thinks the "group" stage has gone as well as could be expected.
"I look forward to when we can get the whole team together," Foster said. "I understand that we can't push it, and we have to do things the right way. I hope the state will respond well and the GHSA will give us the opportunity to give it a full go. ...
"Right now, each group is taking pride in trying to be the best mini-unit that they can be. A unit within a unit, we take great pride in that."
That being said, Cartersville coaches knew there would be a strong learning curve this week. As much as they hoped all of their players would stay in tip-top shape over the nearly three-month layoff, it would be an unrealistic expectation.
It's unsurprising then that there's been a mixed bag in terms of how individual players have performed thus far in regards to strength and conditioning.
"Some of them look better than they ever have," Foster said. "Some of them probably haven't been pushing themselves maybe as hard as they should have been the last few weeks. On the whole, I've been very pleased with the kind of shape our kids returned in.
"It will take them a little bit. They're hurting a little bit after these first two days. I think they've been hungry to get back to work. Pleased with their work ethic, pleased with their energy and pleased with their intensity, and as far as where they're at physically, I think they'll catch up."
Unfortunately, Cartersville's final group Tuesday night didn't get to partake in its practice-field portion of the workout, as heavy rain showers quickly flooded the low-lying area. Regardless, there will be time — barring any setbacks — to make up for one lost workout.
Weather could be a factor again Wednesday, but weightlifting is able to keep taking place rain or shine. So there shouldn't be any weather-related reason to cancel that portion of the workout.
Not to diminish the work being done on the practice field or in the state-of-the-art weight room, but arguably the most impactful part of the past few days, for players and coaches, has been just the ability to reconnect after such a long time apart.
"It's fun to see the enthusiasm," Foster said. "Our young men need it; our community needs it. Especially in light of everything our young men are experiencing in their lives right now, this is a place where they can come and brother can work alongside brother. They can grow together, push each other and, hopefully, we can carry the great things we're doing in this football program into their lives.
"It's great to see those big smiles and see those guys be excited about getting back to the work. ... We talk about being a family. We've missed each other. It's great to see their big smiles when they're walking in the door every day."