A Coaches’ guide to playing through a pandemic

Braden Osborn | Staff Writer

The fall season presented many challenges for the coaches who had to lead their teams through competing during a pandemic. Mason girls volleyball head coach guided her team to a Greater Miami Conference championship in her final season as the Comets’ head coach. Andy Schur coached his girls soccer team to a GMC championship and a post season run that ended in the regional semi-finals. Head football coach Brian Castner navigated his team through a schedule that was up on the air almost weekly and still managed to lead his team to a third place finish in the league and a play-off victory. These fall sports coaches faced circumstances that forced them to reflect on their approach to coaching but also layed a blueprint for winter sports coaches and athletes to follow in order to have a successful season.

Tiann Myer- Head girls volleyball coach

Q: What were your initial thoughts going into the season?

A: “Please let us have a season.  The girls worked diligently to follow all safety protocols throughout June and July and we just wanted to make sure it happened. So many of the players knew the importance of having a season for next level purposes [recruiting].  I know the majority of every school and coach was doing their best to ensure safety of the kids because the end goal was to have a season and make sure everyone is safe.”

Q: What advice would you give to the winter coaches abiut maintaining COVID guidelines during practice?

A: “Remind the athletes every day at the beginning, middle and end of practice that they need to continually think of one another and the impact it will have on your team if someone gets quarantined.  I feel we did excellent during practice, but I had to remind them to not ride in the car with each other or friends, to not hang out as much on weekends. This is hard, but you have to be disciplined for one another. We were strict about locker room protocol as well.”

Q: What changes did you make to how you ran practice to coincide with COVID guidelines?

A: “I mentioned assigning times for our players to come in and out. We also placed tape along the floor 6 feet apart for everyone to place water bottles and hand sanitizer. Everyone separated for all stretching, wore masks until we started playing, athletes had to enter separate doors. When we came together to wrap up practice, we would make sure we were spread out and masked up.”

Andy Schur- Head girls soccer coach

Q: What were your initial thoughts going into the season?

A: “To be completely honest, I was never really sure we were going to get to finish our season. I knew our players would follow the guidelines and would do anything to have the opportunity to play, but I was nervous about how the other things we did not have control over would play out. However after we got into the season and experienced some positive cases and quarantines, I was confident we would get through the season.  I was confident because our district leadership was incredibly supportive of our efforts to continue playing.” 

Q: What advice(If any) would you give to the winter coaches to maintain social distance guidelines during practice?

A: “Continue to communicate the standards to the players and the staff.  Model the guidelines, and the kids will follow your lead on wearing masks and being distant from each other.  It is important to reinforce the guidelines consistently for everyone in the program.  Start off being very direct and just like other practice and team routines, the players will figure out what you want and will follow the guidelines.”

Q: With no spectators or Black Hole was there anything extra you did to motivate your players?

A: “I am not sure it was any one thing that we did.  The players in our program are so proud to represent Mason and play for their community. Now, we absolutely miss the black hole and the experience of playing in front of our peers.  For so many of our players though, they did not have soccer games for 6 months.So, the opportunity to play any game was a big deal, regardless of who was in the crowd.” 

Brian Castner- Head football coach

Q: What advice would you give to the winter coaches about maintaining COVID guidelines during practice?

A: “I would make sure to have a plan. Then describe that plan to my staff, who will echo that plan to the players. I would make sure that within that plan we are positive in attacking the day. Every day we don’t live in fear. We commit to the plan and we attack every day.”

Q: How did you motivate your players during games since they didn’t have the spectators/black hole to back them up?

A: “We tried to dive into the purity of high school athletics and get the players to understand to play for each other, to play for the ones that came before us. The guys that were to the right and the left. As far as mom and dad go getting them to play for mom and dad was a byproduct of our plan. We felt like we wanted to play for each other because that’s who we trained with and that’s who you know can relate with us because we went through so much together.”

Q: What changes did you make to how you ran practice to coincide with COVID guidelines?

A: “Everything that was issued from the state, and everything that was issued from the district we had to follow. I think the biggest things were wearing the mask, keeping your distance, having a check-in at the front door, and making sure everybody was symptom-free. Everybody had to bring in their own water bottle as well. You couldn’t share anything, you couldn’t shower here. There were a lot of things we had to do to tailor back and we felt like we did it all because we knew every little thing will help.”