Sports

Softball coaches appreciate new COVID rules

Guidelines installed to protect from coronavirus gladly followed

Washington's Cameron Malichky races to home plate trying to beat the throw to catcher Kylee Kos in the softball game at Mid-Prairie last summer. (Union photo)
Washington's Cameron Malichky races to home plate trying to beat the throw to catcher Kylee Kos in the softball game at Mid-Prairie last summer. (Union photo)
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The prep sports world in Iowa cheered last week when the governor announced softball and baseball could be played this summer.

“When I first found out we were going to have a season, I was excited but knew it would come with some tough guidelines that we must follow,” Columbus head softball coach Katie Coil said.

“I was super excited to find we get to play this year,” Highland head softball coach Carrie Wieland said. “I know the girls and parents really wanted this!”

“Initially, we are really excited and I’m so happy for our girls that they will get to experience some sort of normalcy in their lives again, even if it is a new normal,” Washington head softball coach Ben Obermann said last week. “A lot of people have worked really hard to make this a possibility, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to play softball.”

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released a list of guidelines and rules regarding restrictions because of the coronavirus last week and followed that with nine pages of frequently asked questions Tuesday.

“All of the guidelines will be a little difficult, but we will stress the importance of using hand sanitizer and staying away if you are sick,” Wieland said.

“Overall, the new guidelines that came out from the state are very doable and the girls union and boys association did a great job working together,” Obermann said Wednesday. “You can tell they worked tirelessly to make things safe for our kids without changing the landscape of the game too much.”

Practice time will take some more planning than in the past.

“Really, we will just be a little more conscientious of how we plan out our practices, and when we break into individual groups by positions, we will limit our group numbers as much as possible,” Obermann said. “It’s nothing too new from the past, as we typically would split up as infielders, outfielders, catchers, etc. Now, we’ll just create smaller groups within our already small position groups. The biggest change will not be being able to utilize the weight room for training, so we will have to get creative in how we condition and train with the girls. The plan is to bring some equipment over to our field and do some modifications of our typical strength and conditioning plan. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

“I think the hardest thing we will have to deal with is making sure the girls remember the social distancing rule when we are not running drills,” Coil said. “They are going to slip up and that’s OK as long as we remember we need to maintain some distance.”

“We will spray down equipment after practice and games,” Wieland said. “So we will do what we need to do to play.”

No team contact is allowed until June 1, but coaches have maintained communication with their players.

“I have been holding weekly Zoom meetings with the girls, just checking in with them and trying to gauge what type of activity level they have had,” Coil said. “Some have done some drill work at home as far as hitting and pitching and some have done running but it will be some what of a struggle to get into game shape, but we are up for the challenge.”

“Some of my players have been working out and staying in shape for this very moment,” Wieland said.

“To be ready for Day 1, our girls will be holding themselves accountable and making sure they are in shape to start practice and getting in work on their own,” Obermann said. “It will be a challenge and in some ways a trial by error, but when June 1 hits, we will practice as normal as we are allowed to. We have two weeks prior to our first game, which is nothing new than past years, so I’m confident we will be ready to go for our first game.”

Game wise will be different, especially at home, where we won’t have any bleachers behind home plate, so it’ll be a different atmosphere to begin with, but we will adapt, and our girls are just truly excited to have the opportunity to play. I’m also happy that our parents and fans will still be able to come out to the diamond this summer.

Obermann said there may be other changes to his practice schedule.

“Practice wise, you just may see more live action, if it is allowed, just because we lost an entire spring of ball where most of our girls get in about 40-50 at-bats and game experience,” he said. “Luckily, we are a pretty experienced group, which should help out greatly. We have good leadership and that will bode well for us.”

There will also be changes in celebrations and no congratularory lines at the end of a game.

“Lets be honest, they are kids and haven’t seen each other in quite some time so the hugs and high fives are going to be hard to not do,” Coil said, “as well as for me as I am a huge high five giver.”

The state also gets a high five for allowing the athletes and coaches the choice to play.

“This is great for the state of Iowa and as the first to open back up to high school sponsored athletics again nationwide, we get the chance to show the rest of the nation how it is possible to return to sports in a safe and healthy nature,” Obermann said.

“We know how hard this has been on everyone and we are happy to bring some fun back into the world,” Wieland said. “We love playing and we love our fan base. We will do what we have to do to stay safe and we will be ready to go when the season starts!

“I see big things for us this year and hope everyone comes out to watch.”