The Whitesboro Bearcats have taken a delicate and decisive approach to the return of athletics. They didn’t resume in early June when the University Interscholastic League said they could, but now that they have the first week under their belts, it’s time to make up for lost ground.
Whitesboro athletic director Cody Fagan said it was important to stick with the initial plan of starting June 15.
“We didn’t start the same week everyone else did and we told the community way back in February that we were going to start June 15 and we wanted them to take their vacation as soon as school was out and to use that time,” Fagan said. “We just wanted to stick by that plan. We thought we could get back into shape and do the things we needed to in six and a half weeks.”
The first week was filled with a good number of athletes according to Fagan and part of Whitesboro’s tempered approach was focusing on conditioning outside.
“We spent the first entire week all outside besides the sports-specific stuff trying to get the kids back in shape,” Fagan said. “We were away from them for 100 days exactly. We were at the regional basketball tournament and then 100 days later, we were back at it. It was interesting to say the least to be away from the kids that long and that’s the longest I’ve been away from the kids in 14 years.”
Personally for Fagan, the sabbatical was filled with many things including trepidation over the coronavirus pandemic and fatigue from household chores.
“It was crazy,” Fagan said. “It was different good and bad. The good was I got to spent way more time with the family and we bought a house during this transition. My wife has been working me to the bone with projects and I’ve got to spend a lot more time with my family and normally spring is the busiest time for a small school athletic director.”
When the athletes first returned, there was a noticeable passion ensconced in the workouts. Fagan and his coaching staff also had to make it clear how important following the safety protocols was during this time.
“You could see in their faces the first day and kids are kids,” Fagan said. “They want to be around each other and want to be around us. It was hard to get them to understand that they have to be socially distant while working out and that they can’t be within 10 feet of each other. Once it’s time to get a water break, we can’t swarm like a swarm of bees.
“We’re not excited about having to do the social distance, but it’s a means to an end. What we all want to do is be back together safe and sound in August to play all the things we love. This is the price we have to pay right now. “
During the time away from athletics, Whitesboro coaches made a point to hold virtual workouts to keep the kids active.
Upon their return, some were in shape and some were not.
“We had 20% of them were in pretty good shape and you could tell that they did what they needed to,” Fagan said. “Like anything, it’s hard to keep yourself in great shape. We had a great number that needed to get back into shape. That was our approach when we met as a coaching staff. We wanted to spend a week and gauge it after that week. We felt like it was time to start developing strength again.”
After missing 100 days and a key portion of the athletic year in the spring sports season, Fagan said it’s even more imperative that they get back to putting in work because the fall sports season is right around the corner.
“The spring is a big, huge time for us lifting and getting kids ready,” Fagan said. “Baseball, track and tennis, it didn’t matter what sport you’re in, you’re going to lift during the athletic period three days a week and do speed development the other two. We wanted to make sure we spent a lot of our spring making them into better athletes and we missed that. You’re never going to make up the lost ground, but we’re trying to knock a dent in that.”
A big part of weightlifting is injury prevention, so setting a foundation during this time is key according to Fagan.
Like last summer, Whitesboro isn’t going to focus on football just yet. It is important to focus on spring sports for the time being, then they will turn their attention to fall sports in July.
The Bearcats will be missing out on 7-on-7 football this summer, but Fagan was quick to point out that so is everyone else in the state.
“It’s great on the offensive side, but it’s not the end of the world not having it,” Fagan said. “It may hit some of those spread teams a little harder than us, but with us being an option-based attack, it’s by no means something we’re going to lose sleep over.”
While getting into shape is one of the main goals for the next few weeks, Fagan said staying safe is the priority.
“Schools are shutting down all over the state,” Fagan said. “Our biggest goal is to stay on top of the social distancing and keep disinfecting everything. I’ve never sprayed so many spray bottles worth of sanitizer and hand cleaner in my life, but our biggest deal is to keep our kids and coaches safe. If we get shut down, we’re right back to where we were. We’re going to take a little extra time to make sure we’re as clean as possible and see if we can make it all the way to August without any breaks.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip