High school athletes and coaches may have a different summer because of COVID-19 concerns.
Meeting together as a team could be limited. Ottawa High School football coach Rob Hedrick is keeping an optimistic outlook, but is ready to change plans if necessary.
“I hope we can meet in some capacity as a group,” Hedrick said. “Everybody is in a ‘wait-and-see.’ I am ready for anything. We are scheduled to start the last week of May and we are going to do our normal four days a week. I really hope we are able to. That is what I am communicating to the team. As soon as I know something (different), I will communicate that with them.”
Hedrick said they must be adaptable and ready to go when everything is cleared to meet.
“We will hit the ground running once we get the green light,” he said. “We will see the light at the end of the tunnel here before long, I hope. We will get back into the weight room during the summer and have our normal summer workouts and practices.”
Hedrick said this situation could be similar to when fall prep teams were not allowed to workout or practice together during the summer and athletes took it upon themselves to be ready for the season.
“It is a challenging time,” he said. “You have to have the mental capacity … this is just another challenge you have to meet for the upcoming season. They gave the mental capacity to handle this. They are great kids.”
Hedrick said not being around the athletes this spring has been a tough adjustment.
“The kids become a big part of your life and every day routine,” he said. “When that is taken away, it is awkward. Thank goodness for technology. It does make things more accessible. You can stay in touch. It is still not the same. It makes you appreciate the good things you have.”
The coach said several players have sent videos of their training sessions.
“They have to take it upon themselves to work out, stay in shape and keep getting better physically,” Hedrick said. “I have faith in those kids they will keep working. They will keep working and pushing forward to their personal goals — strength and speed goals. I don’t think they will lose much.”
Weight training — one of the staples of the off-season program — has been tougher without access to gyms. Hedrick’s advice to the athletes is to not use that as a crutch.
“I told the boys, ‘You can’t go to the gym, so you have to get creative,’ ” he said. “You have to do a lot of body weight exercises. Use whatever you have around the house. The upperclassmen know the lifts and the exercises they need to do. The young kids, I would suggest do your big muscle groups. If you don’t have weights, do a bunch of push-ups. Do squats with any kind of weight you can find, lunges, anything like that. That is all you can do.
“You have to think old school before we had all these specialized lifts. If you want to get faster, go run. If you want to get stronger, go lift something. That is how you have to think right now.”
Several athletes had been in the weight room since the end of the 2019 season and grew stronger when school was canceled in mid-March, Hedrick said.
“We had so many kids active in winter sports,” he said. “Those that were not were with me three days a week, doing good work. Coach Pat Boeh and coach Evan Shaffer said they were doing well in the weight room during their classes. I am still excited about the kids and the work they have been putting in.”
The coach said when a date to return is known, it will send a positive message to the athletes.
“Once we get some good news that we can get together on a certain date, it will ramp up enthusiasm and some kids that are not working that hard, it will light a fire with them,” Hedrick said. “It will be like the first day before the season where you can’t sleep the night before because there is so much anticipation.”
Technology continues to make advancements and Hedrick is taking advantage. He bought an APP on which he can program the whole offense and add videos and other information.
“That is going to be a big plus for the kids and us,” Hedrick said. “If we can’t get together this summer, they will still be able to learn it remotely. I am prepping it right now. They will have it soon. Hopefully, we will be up to speed in that capacity.”
Hedrick said optimism is high, despite winning just one game last fall. Hedrick expects a larger squad. He said 30 freshmen signed up this spring and several others who did not play last year are expecting to play this season.
“Our numbers should be big,” he said. “Hopefully that will build some depth and competition at each position. The more kids we have come out, the better chance we will have winning some football games. If we can get this pandemic taken care of, we will be where we want to be.
“I am truly excited about next season.”