For high school basketball players and coaches, the month of June has traditionally been a big part of the offseason program. Between team camps, individual workouts, and summer league games, the work done in the month of June is pivotal to a team's success in the winter.
But this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of things have changed.
The good news is that the Georgia High School Association reopened high school athletics this week, allowing conditioning workouts for all sports. The restart has allowed basketball coaches around the state to work with their players to a limited degree. Players are allowed to workout in the gym and weight room, but basketballs and any sport-specific equipment are off-limits for the time being.
WCHS girls' head coach Jarvis Davenport and first-year boys' head coach Robbie Bailey opened their summer work this week, working with the players for the first time in four months.
“We can do some stuff like footwork drills, quickness and agility stuff,” Davenport said. “We can work out stuff (offensive and defensive schemes), we just have to do it without a ball. We're trying to make sure our kids know where they are supposed to be on the floor. I think it can be a good thing not to be able to use a ball right now. It allows them to think, to talk, and figure out where they are supposed to be without having to worry about the ball. Along with the physical conditioning, it's mental conditioning.”
Davenport is currently working out the girls' team in two groups – one with the returning varsity players and a group of younger players – on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
“The older girls are more advanced and we can do more in-depth work with them,” Davenport said. “We have eight or nine young girls that we can ease in and not have them intimidated by coming out here and working with the older kids.
Davenport hopes some of the workout restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks, giving the team a chance to ramp up the sessions.
“Looking at it longterm, if there isn't a spike with COVID-19, the GHSA will lift some of the restrictions and we'll be able to get the basketball out,” Davenport said. “I don't think we'll get go scrimmage East Hall or somebody anytime soon, but I think we'll get to use the basketball and be able to do some live stuff as a team. Right now, we can't even set a screen, since there's no contact. But I think this is an opportunity to get better. We have a chance to work on the finer things of the game, that we might not work on if we using a ball. We have a lot of returning players, but there are plenty of things we can do better. If we take advantage of this time, it can make us a better team when we start playing.”
On the boys' side, Bailey is conducting his first summer program as the team's head coach after spending last season as an assistant coach on the staff. Bailey had planned to use the month of June to put in his offensive and defensive schemes, the pandemic has changed most of that. Bailey held the first workout on Tuesday, and the players will work at twice a week for the foreseeable future.
“It's going to be a challenge,” Bailey said. “It was much different on Tuesday, but the kids were excited. I think they've gotten bored (with the quarantine) and they ready to do something. They were excited to be here. We worked out in the weight room and then got on the floor and did some things. It's different trying to put in some new stuff without a ball, you have to get creative, but they handled it pretty well.”
One big challenge for Bailey is not having all of his players.
Due to the Georgia High School Association not allowing athletes to attend workouts for more than one sport, Bailey won't have a big part of the returning varsity squad available for the summer work. Bailey said he had 12 players participate in the first workout this week.
“Of the varsity guys, we have nine or 10 that are football players, and probably six or seven more JV players that play football. But I knew the makeup of the team when I took the job. I was part of the staff last year, so I know what most of those guys can do, especially the varsity guys. I've talked to all the football guys and they understand, it is what it is and we have to deal with it.”
With a lot of the key players focusing football right now, Bailey sees a opportunity for other kids to step and perform.
“We've got several kids that didn't much varsity or play varsity at all last year, and this is an opportunity for them to step up and show they can contribute at the varsity level next season,” Bailey said. “I know what I have in the football kids, so I'm not concerned about them. This is a chance for the other kids to show me what they can do. Our focus this summer is about getting this kids ready so they will be ahead of the game when practice starts in October.”