Tigers return to campus for 1st workouts since March

By NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
Posted 6/9/20

Hands on knees, lying down and lots of sweat from athletes were clear signs that summer workouts were taking place Monday at Adairsville. But there were other signs, too, these ones illustrating that …

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Tigers return to campus for 1st workouts since March

Posted

Hands on knees, lying down and lots of sweat from athletes were clear signs that summer workouts were taking place Monday at Adairsville. But there were other signs, too, these ones illustrating that this was no ordinary day of weightlifting and conditioning.

Those driving up either the "Green" or "Gold" entrances to Adairsville High were greeted by signs with questions designed to gauge possible exposure to COVID-19.

"Do you or have you had a fever in the last week?" "Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?" "Have you been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19?" "Have you traveled to a 'hot spot' for COVID-19?"

There was even a sign asking players if they had brought water, because there would be no communal water stations. Just one of the many minor differences that made Monday's return to athletics a new and quite different experience for all involved.

That being said, things seemed to go off without a hitch for the Tigers.

"I was very proud of the kids and coaches today," Adairsville High athletic director Meredith Barnhill said. "The time and effort the coaches spent planning the past couple of weeks truly paid off today. It went about as smooth as we could have expected it to go."

With different groups working out across the AHS campus, along with some football groups at the middle school, there was plenty of strategic planning and staggering of times with one-hour workouts beginning at 9, 10:30 and noon.

It makes for a hectic time for those like Barnhill, but it can be even crazier for parents. Adairsville head softball coach Amanda Nelson noted the sacrifices families made to ensure everything went off with only a few minor hiccups.

"It's only an hour workout and these parents are having to make arrangements for their kids to get there and get picked up — pretty promptly due to the regulations," Nelson said. "For working parents or parents with several kids, I know that's tough, and we appreciate them making that happen."

With five total groups spread out between Tiger Stadium and AMS, head football coach Eric Bishop spent most of the four hours in his truck, watching some of the workouts before driving to the other location.

From his observations and in speaking with assistant coaches who ran the workouts, Bishop was pleased with where the team appeared to be from a strength perspective but disappointed with the conditioning side of things.

"I was impressed with what I saw from a strength standpoint," he said. "We've got a ways to go on conditioning. We're a long ways away from being ready to have a camp-type setting or, low and behold, play a football game. I think that's one thing we realized today."

Because of that, Bishop expressed gratitude for the GHSA's handling of the modest return to workouts, which was announced May 21. The decision caused some headaches by including a large number of rules and regulations schools would have to follow.

Bishop admitted coaches had to remind players of maintaining social distancing but other rules were followed to the letter of the law. He's using the situation to challenge his players.

"You have to be responsible, and you have to be a great teammate," Bishop said of his message. "You don't want to be the person who gets this football program shut down, because you were irresponsible or unaccountable for your actions.

"That's what we continued to preach today in every group. Hopefully, we'll continue to do that, and we won't have any interruptions in our return to play."

While Bishop was having to watch from afar as his players tried to work their way back into shape, head cheer coach Kaylie Noe was holding tryouts for her teams.

The exercise came more than a month after it typically occurs. It also looked different than any cheerleading tryout Noe has ever had to oversee.

There was no stunting, no tumbling and no mats, period. Each participant did a cheer, dance, band cheer and jump of their choice. They also did a timed mile run.

Noe had to submit her tryout plan to officials with the Bartow County School System and GHSA.

"It was definitely a different experience from anything or any tryout I've had in my coaching career," Noe said. "I think all things considered, the girls did a great job and made the best of not-the-best situation."

Monday afternoon, Adairsville announced 22 individuals had made the initial roster for the competition team. A second tryout will take place next week for those who couldn't attend the first session.

Following the tryouts, those who made the cheer teams will return Tuesday to take part in the scripted workouts that the other girls fall sports athletes began Monday.

"We were a little disappointed we didn't get to participate today," Noe said. "But in the long run, we thought it would be better to go ahead and just be working out the girls we knew would be a part of the program, since GHSA allowed us to do that. So we'll start working out with all of our other fall sports [Tuesday]."

Cheer will comprise two of the five girls workout groups. Among the others, there's one group of returning volleyball players, one group of returning softball players and one group that's a mix of both sports, consisting mostly of freshmen.

Head volleyball coach Kailey Vaughn Martin lamented having to set an alarm to get up to oversee her returning players during their noon workout. Even still, she enjoyed getting to see so many familiar faces.

"I love being here for these girls and helping them as much as I can," Vaughn Martin said. "Just having something to do has been great, even if it's not getting to touch the volleyballs or play, getting to do something as a team has been awesome."

She's looking forward to the ensuing steps in the return. The hope is she'll be able to have her entire team together at workouts soon, if and when the GHSA raises the maximum number of individuals above 20.

At this point, though, Vaughn Martin will take what she can get.

"I wish we had all of the freshmen with us too," she said. "We had a separate freshmen group, and I think that would have helped a lot with the team bonding too. I need the upperclassmen to bring them up to speed with everything we're doing.

"For [the returners], they're already a family, so working out together, helping each other that's something they just fall back into the routine of."

Vaughn Martin's freshmen completed their workouts under the watchful eye of Nelson, who oversaw the young group. Nelson was pleased with the attitude she saw, including an appreciation for being able to gather once again in preparation for the start of the season.

"You could tell the girls were rolling out of bed just in time to get there," she said. "They're not used to getting up and getting to work.

"But they were all in good spirits. They were happy to be getting back together on a common ground where they're used to being. They all had the right attitude. ... They all worked really hard today."

That seemed to be the theme among all the Tigers.

On a day that had been highly anticipated, a good first step was taken. That was maybe the best sign of all.

"It's only going to get better from here," Bishop said. "Whatever this new normal is going to be, we're one step closer to it today. I really think our kids and coaches are just going to fall into place. We're going to make the best of a bad situation."