Basketballs were present at workouts for the Woodland boys and girls hoops teams, but those represented the bulk of the sport-specific equipment used by Wildcats this week.
Monday was the first day basketballs and similar equipment were able to be utilized at workouts, following a relaxing of restrictions by the GHSA. But not all Woodland teams approached the change in the same manner.
Some teams, including cheerleading, opted to take advantage; some teams, including football, preferred to maintain their previous practice plans; and some teams, including softball, continued to hold off on hosting workouts altogether.
The most pronounced changes this week came on the hardwood.
After a week of workouts without the benefit of an actual basketball, the Woodland boys hoops team was able to drastically shake up its workouts after being forced to focus solely on conditioning previously.
“It was good to get out the basketball this week; I know the kids were excited,” Wildcats head boys basketball coach Jacob Selman said. “We were able to work on getting better individually through core fundamentals.”
Meanwhile, the school’s girls basketball program used the opportunity to hold its initial non-mandatory practices of the summer.
“Once we became eligible to use the ball,” Woodland head girls basketball coach Kyle Morgan said, “that became an incentive for us to try to get in the gym and get better.”
Even still, both teams had plenty of rules and regulations to follow regarding social distancing — which is the case for those in all sports, to some degree.
For basketball, the main hurdle is an inability to scrimmage — in any sense of the word. There’s definitely no exhibition games against other teams, but individual teams can’t even do drills in which their players are guarding teammates, let alone go five-on-five.
With the GHSA likely to announce some sort of update entering or during the upcoming dead week, Selman will be anxiously waiting to see if his July workouts can involve some physical contact.
“One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to is them loosening up just a little bit further,” he said. “Maybe, we can get some intrasquad scrimmages going — some one-on-one, two-on-two, five-on-five action. I think that will help our numbers.”
Morgan believes that trying to anticipate what the governing body will allow for future workouts is incredibly tough.
“The whole situation is very fluid,” Morgan said in regards to holding July workouts. “We’ll try our best to make the best of it and give the kids available an opportunity to get better, if they choose.”
While plenty of coaches continue to fume over protocols and guidelines, Morgan is trying to keep a positive outlook. Being able to work on individual skills gets lost sometimes during summer workouts, but this year — at least for now — it can be a welcomed primary focus.
“There are two ways you can look at everything — positive or negative,” Morgan said. “We’re definitely trying to find the positives. The opportunity for the kids to work on the fundamentals of dribbling, passing, shooting, pivoting and all those little things that add up to big things are our points of emphasis right now. That’s based on the restrictions and guidelines in place, but they’re also necessary areas of improvement for us as individuals and collectively as a team.”
Another benefit to the current situation has been giving some of Woodland’s younger athletes a chance to build bonds with their older teammates. Morgan has been especially pleased with the leadership shown by rising seniors Ansley Evans, Gracie Styles and Jordan Thompson, along with rising junior Abigail Taylor.
“We had kids from anywhere from 7th-12th grade in the gym,” Morgan said. “For the younger kids to see and interact with the older kids, I think that’s immeasurable. … I’m blessed to have a good group of kids who are good role models for those younger kids who are in the program.”
A couple of athletes from both the boys and girls programs have been participating in travel ball. Many though are truly having to work themselves back into form — physically and from purely a basketball standpoint.
Selman witnessed that, particularly during last week’s conditioning sessions.
“I was kind of expecting them to be a little bit rusty,” he said. “A lot of them don’t have the opportunity to go out and play on travel ball teams. Even then, travel teams haven’t been back all that long. … I think the two months off did affect them.”
Then again, like a lot of coaches, he understood that would probably be the case.
“I kind of knew what would be happening,” Selman said. “You just want to see how quickly they can bounce back.”