High school sports teams’ summer workouts might turn out to be a splendid case study in the contrast between short-term gratification and long-term reward.

After more than two months in which many were home more than usual, away from friends and everyday pursuits – sports or otherwise – coaches and athletes across the state returned to work June 1 for optional workouts that can last all summer.

Decisions over something as simple as a handshake, hug or high-five could mean the difference between a “normal” fall or another several months of waiting to resume whatever passes for normal life amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

To their credit, many of the teams our ThisWeek staff saw throughout the past few weeks seem to understand the control they have over the situation, even as the situation itself can seem overwhelming depending on the day.

They’re taking the new workout protocols seriously because they don’t want to do anything that hurts their chances of competing.

“You have a season taken away, all you have left is what you establish as your core values,” Olentangy Liberty baseball coach Ty Brenning said. “Usually there’s a sense of urgency and a sense of accountability in a baseball season. You have maybe nine weeks. To go from that to Zoom meetings, it’s hard to ask of any adult to stay completely focused and disciplined, let alone our players. You have to recreate some habits and make sure you’re disciplined. Our next season is still 10 months away.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s three-phase plan includes guidelines for pre-workout screenings, an initial 10-person limit to groups within indoor and outdoor workouts and guidelines for cleaning facilities and hydration, as well as guidelines for the cleaning and lack of sharing of athletic equipment.

Schools were expected to remain in the first phase for at least 14 days and were allowed to progress to the second and third phases if documented cases of coronavirus remained flat or decreased in subsequent two-week periods.

“One of the things we talk quite a bit about is making the day count and not counting days, even though we have to use phases,” Brenning said. “From the kids’ standpoint, we want them to feel like they’re learning and being challenged.”

Canal Winchester athletics director Pat Durbin’s edict to his coaches was succinct.

“I told my coaches that health is first and foremost. That overrides teaching the sport at this point,” he said. “Take it slow and structured.”

Short-term pain for long-term gain applied to first-year Thomas Worthington football coach Mike Picetti, who because of his hire in December was able to work with his players for about three months before school buildings were closed.

“We’ve done a lot of Zoom calls teaching them how to watch film properly and discussing technique,” Picetti said. “It’s definitely a challenge taking over your first program in the middle of all this.”

OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass told ThisWeek last week that no sanctions are in place for teams that violate protocol.

“They’re not our rules. Everything occurring in the schools right now is non-OHSAA, non-school sports, so we have no oversight and we have no penalties or compliance with it,” Snodgrass said. “It’s entirely up to (Gov. Mike DeWine) and the (Ohio) Department of Health. Our organization does not oversee or deal with pandemics.”

Oversee, no, but all of us are dealing, somehow.

Would any punishment the OHSAA could hand down be worse than another season with no sports?

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave