Grandview Heights Athletics: Several teams playing waiting game
"Six feet apart," Jason Peters barked.
The Grandview Heights football coach reminded his players about one of the numerous safety protocols in place as they left the stands Aug. 7 following a socially distanced team photo at Bobcat Stadium and headed to the high school for individual portraits.
Just as with the spread-out nature of the team photo, the Bobcats have not had their normal preseason workouts. Instead, they have been working on drills in pods consisting of no more than nine players and one coach. These restrictions are another example of the changes brought about by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Grandview begins the school year Monday, Aug. 17, with virtual learning. The non-contact sports of boys golf and girls tennis have been cleared for competitions but two other non-contact sports, cross country and girls volleyball, had not been cleared for the Bobcats as of Aug. 10 even though they have been cleared by the state.
Peters and his football team also remain in limbo. They are practicing in Phase 1, in which contact is prohibited.
"I know we're in Phase 1 and so is Bexley and Whitehall, but I'm pretty sure the other teams in our league (Buckeye Valley, Columbus Academy, Harvest Prep and Liberty Union) are practicing normally," Peters said. "If they change things today and OK our playing, I'm worried about the safety of our kids. They are only going through drills when the other teams will have been doing contact for weeks already. It's a safety issue."
The OHSAA released a proposal Aug. 7 for a shortened football season in which all teams would qualify for the playoffs after a six-game regular season, but the plan needed Gov. Mike DeWine's approval. The proposal called for the season to begin the final weekend of August, as previously scheduled, with the postseason beginning Oct. 9 and ending no later than Nov. 21.
The Bobcats already had lost one regular-season contest because their game for Sept. 11 was canceled when KIPP Columbus decided not to play this season.
Senior two-way lineman Matthew Taylor said the limited preseason workouts have been taking a toll on the mental attitude needed to play the game.
"I think football is such a game that you have to get used to physically that it's setting everybody back," Taylor said as tufts of his red beard crept beyond the boundaries of his mask. "Putting on your shoulder pads and hitting someone isn't something that you can train for. It's something that's in the moment. We have to make sure we're ready."
Senior Cory Culp, a running back/defensive back, said the Bobcats have to make the most of every minute that they have on the practice field.
"We're going to have to work harder than we have in the past," he said. "We're going to have to stay focused and make the most of every practice."
Coach Bre Dominach is making the most of every workout with her girls soccer program.
She tore her right ACL during a workout July 30 while "trying to keep up with the 16-year-olds." She was going to have surgery Aug. 7 but has opted to wait and see what the verdict is for the season.
Like football, soccer is considered a contact sport.
"I don't want to miss any opportunity to be out here with the girls," said Dominach, who is in her second season.
"That's been our philosophy all summer. We're going to take every day we can be out here as a blessing. I don't want to miss a day. Any day can be our last."
Dominach said it hasn't been a typical preseason thanks to social distancing and uncertainty.
"There are a lot of strained voices after practice from talking through masks," said Dominach, whose team is slated to open Aug. 22 at home against Berlin Hiland. "There is a lot of keeping things simple, repeating ourselves in small groups and making sure we get our point across.
"It's been stressful because I'm a planner. Not being able to really know what the next week will look like is a struggle. There is anxiety over what the next week or month will look like. We have had to be creative and change our plans in the morning depending on what pace we are allowed to do."
Boys soccer coach James Gerdes isn't happy with the preseason scenario but understands the safety precautions. His team is scheduled to open Aug. 22 at home against Madison Christian.
"We're not really doing what we need to do to prepare for the season, but we're staying with the guidelines," he said. "The (Phase 1) program has really had an impact. It's very hard to gear up for a season of soccer when we can't play the way we would like to play. They want to get out there and practice. They are frankly a little bored with just skills."
Girls tennis coach Kathy Kinnard's team was scheduled to open Aug. 12 against Hamilton Township.
"It is what it is," Kinnard said of the preseason. "Tennis kind of lends itself to social distancing, but we still have to limit practices to nine each session. So with 34 kids, we have to have four one-hour sessions with me taking the first two and my assistant, Kristi Jump, doing the other two."
Preseason training has been similar to what it has been in the past for senior Derek Amicon, who is hoping to capture a second consecutive Division III state championship in boys cross country. Last fall, he won in 15 minutes, 42.5 seconds.
"We're split into groups of less than 10, but that's the only difference," he said.