This is the second of a two-part series on how coaches and students are adapting to long-distance learning amid the coronovirus pandemic.
After more than a month without the benefit of hands-on instruction, area coaches are finding innovative ways to connect with their athletes through technology.
Because of University Interscholastic League restrictions, coaches have not been allowed to actively instruct their athletes since March 19. Spring sports contests and practices were suspended at that point and ultimately canceled on April 17.
Until the restrictions are lifted, the UIL allows five hours per week of home practice time for all teams. Now that area coaches have been teaching their teams through Google Classroom, Zoom and other apps for more than a month, the challenge is to find fresh approaches to keep their athletes engaged.
The Texas High School Coaches Association has issued a variety of teaching tools, but sharing ideas with other coaches and thinking outside the box also play roles.
“We’re trying to keep them motivated,” Lanier volleyball and girls basketball coach Laura Negrete-Fernandez said. “We’re trying to make it a little exciting, or even just different. It has been a long process.”
Lanier connected its athletes with Spurs guard Bryn Forbes in an online session. Hornets boys basketball coach James Rabon is considering using former East Central boys basketball players as guest speakers, because they understand the program’s standards and expectations.
Mental preparedness and team-oriented training are frequently part of the current focus. Edison girls basketball coach Angie Johnson’s players recently watched the “The Blind Side” as a team and then took a quiz about the movie, which emphasizes the importance of team and family support.
Johnson typically watches about 25 players working out at the same time on Zoom (Rabon said the capacity is 45-50). The players can pause the exercise and ask questions — which teammates can hear.
“It’s been fun to watch them,” Johnson said. “They get excited. They’ve mentioned how they like it better when they do things together and know I’m watching. It holds them accountable.”
St. Gerard football coach Tim Holt and his staff are using Google Classroom to prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s actually allowing us to catch up,” Holt said, referring to being hired five days into the 2019 season. “We were behind in so many ways. It was very intimidating to get on there at first, but now it’s something we can’t do without.”
East Central football coach Joe Hubbard uses phone calls and texts to make sure the class of 2020 knows it’s still a part of the program.
Although Google Classroom and Zoom don’t seem suited to the logistical problems football presents, but Hubbard has a simple solution. His team is split into three groups. Freshmen and sophomores are taught alongside seniors-to-be.
“We split into position groups,” East Central football coach Joe Hubbard said. “Typically, our sessions are 15-20 people per group. That has seemed to work really, really well.”
As of publication, the UIL hadn’t announced the fate of such as summer leagues, summer camps, weight training, skills training.
“They’ve pretty much told us ‘Don’t count on summer activities,’ ” Johnson said, referring to school and district administrators. “They haven’t closed the door on (sports conditioning) yet.”
Although Rabon can tell his players athletes miss their teammates through their messages and texts, he’s proud that they’ve embraced challenges posed by social-distancing.
“There’s going to be a lot of growing up this spring,” Rabon said. “When they get back in school in August, they should be more mature kids.”