Cass teams taking next step in prepping for new seasons

By NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
Posted 6/24/20

There are just a handful of days to go until the GHSA's mandated dead week, during which time no workouts of any kind can be held by member schools. Despite the scheduled interruption, Cass High …

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Cass teams taking next step in prepping for new seasons

Posted

There are just a handful of days to go until the GHSA's mandated dead week, during which time no workouts of any kind can be held by member schools.

Despite the scheduled interruption, Cass High athletic teams are doing everything they can to make the most out of their final few workouts in June. Volleyballs and basketballs took turns flying around the school's main gym Tuesday, while the football team also took advantage of the GHSA recently lifting its ban on sport-specific equipment at workouts.

It took until the third week of workouts for the football team to be able to have footballs at practice, but Colonels head coach Steve Gates is just happy to see his program inch closer to a full return.

"The GHSA has always been big on progression, with the acclimation periods and stuff like that they always do," Gates said. "This is just like an extension of that.

"It's been kind of OK. We got to do some things without a football for a while and just get into formations. Now, we can add a football, start running some concepts and getting the quarterbacks throwing the football. It's actually kind of refreshing to let the kids get out there and play."

While Gates went through two full weeks with no footballs, some of his Cass colleagues began their summer work this week without similar restrictions.

New volleyball coach Laura Hayes held her first workouts Tuesday. Even though volleyballs and nets were allowed, there are still plenty of rules and regulations to follow.

She admitted it was tough to remain compliant with all the restrictions in place.

"It was a challenge to maintain distance," Hayes said. "We rose to the challenge. This is all new territory for us. [CHS athletic director] Dr. [Nicky] Moore went over what the guidelines were with the girls and introduced me. I think it worked out well."

Likewise, both Cass basketball teams were in the gym for the first time in months. Girls basketball coach Burt Jackson was impressed with the turnout he had for his midday session.

"Every returning player who was in our program last year showed up to today's conditioning," he said. "They're excited about the future."

Although normalcy or even a new normal, for that matter, is slowly getting closer, there are still several obstacles coaches in all sports have to overcome.

Starting this week, workout groups can include up to 50 players and coaches.

Gates, though, decided to keep his five separate sessions of roughly 20 individuals. He had several reasons — including the still-instituted ban on scrimmage activities, such as seven-on-seven drills.

"I weighed out all the positives and negatives, and the negatives actually outweighed the positives just for this one week of workouts," he said. "It wasn't efficient to change 94 players' parents schedules of drop-off and pick-up times. ... It's also kind of erring on the side of caution with COVID."

Regardless, Gates hopes he has the ability to combine all of his players into one group come July.

"What we were getting out of our small groups was tremendous," he said. "I didn't see the need to jump to 50. I would rather get to the dead week, and hopefully, the GHSA will release us to have some full team activities."

For basketball, the 50-person cap doesn't curtail anything. However, Hayes had to split her players into two groups due to the large number of new players showing interest in the program.

Having served as the Colonels JV coach the past two seasons, Hayes is familiar with several of the athletes, making her comfortable enough to split the two groups into "new players" and "returners." She even worked the two groups out a little differently.

"I wanted to see their stamina, their athletic ability," Hayes said of the new players. "At the end of practice, they did a passing exercise to each other.

"My returning group, we did less conditioning and more working on communication. That's one thing they always need to work on, because when they get on the court during a game, they get quiet, don't communicate and don't talk to each other."

Overall, she was impressed with what she saw out of the players, particularly having positive attitudes.

"From what I saw, the girls looked good," Hayes said. "Based on the way they looked just today, which was the first day, we should have a pretty decent year."

Jackson was also pleased with what he saw. Sure, his players were a tad bit rusty, but they brought good energy, which he liked.

His players worked mostly on dribbling and shooting. Like several of the coaches in Bartow County, Jackson will eagerly be awaiting word from the GHSA about what to expect when workouts resume July 6.

"The hope is after the GHSA dead week, they'll really loosen the restrictions and we can get to scrimmaging," he said. "I've had a few teams reach out to ask, 'If we're able to scrimmage in July, would you be interested?'

"Originally, I had 23 games for our varsity scheduled for June to scrimmage and 15 games for our JV. When that got scrapped, I wasn't sure what would happen."

Whether or not scrimmages with opposing schools are able to take place in July, Jackson should feel as though his team is still slightly ahead of most others, due to the number of players he has on travel ball teams.

"It makes my job easier, obviously, having seven returning varsity players off last year's team playing AAU ball," Jackson said. "That just shows you how much they love the game. If we can stay healthy, obviously, I'm excited about what the upcoming season could hold."