The Western High School volleyball team began practicing last week while adhering to the summer practice guidelines set by the IHSAA.
Starting with Phase I of the IHSAA’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Re-entry Guidance, the Lady Panthers have taken extra precautions while trying to prepare for the upcoming fall season. Head Coach Jessica Oliver said the players practice social distancing from the moment they enter the gymnasium.
“When the girls come in to practice, we wear masks into the building, into the gym, and everybody has their own space marked off all the way around the gym on the bleachers. Girls would normally just come in and throw their stuff down. Now, each girl has a space that will be theirs until we don’t have to do this anymore,” Oliver said.
Additionally, each player is in charge of her own laundry and water bottle. Previously, the team’s managers would take care of the needs, but to prevent any possible contamination, Oliver said this will be practiced until further notice. Currently, coaches disinfect any balls, nets, poles, and other equipment the players come in contact with daily.
Oliver said the team likely won’t utilize the locker rooms until the school year starts, even though locker room usage will be permitted during Phase II, beginning on Monday, July 20.
“I think we’re probably just going to try to maintain what we’re doing to be honest with you. It’s just such a touchy time. With the season coming, we don’t want to take the chance. We think we’re going to probably stay with what’s working right now,” Oliver said.
According to the IHSAA guidelines, only two days of sports-related activities currently are permitted per week. Up to four days of conditioning currently are allowed, but athletes only can practice a maximum of 15 hours per week. Oliver said this affects multi-sport athletes who have to be especially careful not to go over the hour limit of Phase I. However, this has not been much of an issue yet, but it potentially could be in Phase II, she said.
“I think once we get into Phase II, that’ll probably be something that, if we’re still watching hours, that will be something that will be more noticeable then. Everyone’s allowed more time when that happens,” Oliver said.
The players began their first day back in the gym by doing conditioning workouts, consisting of cardio and upper body strength exercises. When practicing volleyball activities, two nets were set up in the gym to accommodate smaller group-work.
According to Oliver, nearly 30 girls have shown up religiously to practices. Numbers are up from last year’s summer practices, she said, with a large freshmen class of 16 players. Since being reunited, Oliver said the atmosphere has been positive.
“All the girls are pretty excited. We did conditioning on Monday, and yesterday was our first activity day. And they were pretty fired up. I think they were glad to be in the gym. They were super excited about having the volleyballs out and just being able to have some normalcy of hope for what’s coming,” Oliver said.
The team is slated to scrimmage at Pioneer High School on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m.