xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Anne Arundel’s private high school athletes forging ahead with preparations as fall season remains uncertain

Some Anne Arundel private school athletics are preparing for a fall season, but are also prepared for the alternative.
Some Anne Arundel private school athletics are preparing for a fall season, but are also prepared for the alternative. (Daniel Kucin Jr./Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Michael Coit hopes to be a running back this fall. The St. Mary’s three-sport athlete, a rising senior, shed 30 pounds and gained an inch. He’d already played linebacker for the varsity Saints, but learned he might be able to add safety and running back to his resume.

That’s for down the road, if there is more road to travel. Right now, Coit works with 12 other guys, all in his unit, from six feet apart for an hour. His coaches wear masks at all times. Coit and his teammates don masks when they come to and from practice. They’re temperature checked before workouts start. There are no helmets, footballs, gear, nor trips to the weight room.

Advertisement

It’s a setting under a coronavirus lens. But still, there is he is, doing what many high school and college athletes in America can’t right now ― prepare for a fall season.

“It’s something I can’t take for granted because at any time, it could be canceled,” Coit said. “I just have to go 110 % every time I get on the field and be grateful I’m able to do it.”

Advertisement

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, as well as the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, voted two weeks ago to delay the start of its season until Sept. 1. It also eliminated the blackout period that bars coaches from working with their students for two weeks.

The postponement of about one month strikes a stark contrast to its counterpart, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, which Monday moved all fall and winter sports out of the first semester of school.

Back at the private schools, many teams are beginning limited versions of workouts.

Key School teams are working in small pods of eight students, and will be for the foreseeable future, said athletic director Brian Boyd.

St. Mary’s is beginning its fourth week of summer workouts and conditioning. Football, field hockey, and volleyball have begun work while soccer is still yet to return, which the intention to run through August.

Annapolis Area Christian School began practices on June 8, inviting only nine athletes on its campus at a time and then expanded to 20. The Eagles maintain a 9:1 students to coaches ratio. Kids tend to forget sometimes, said AD Josiah Wolf. They gravitate toward one another. Coaches’ jobs are additionally to keep that from happening.

“At least we’re keeping them in shape, having that social aspect still,” Wolf said. “See your friends. You can’t hug them or give them a high five, but it’s still a big aspect of this, the social piece, to be able to be together.”

Archbishop Spalding football just conducted its 10th summer workout. Like St. Mary’s, the squad is split into units. There’s no live work, no 7-on-7s.

“I feel like a basketball coach, who does the first four days of practice like ‘Hoosiers.’ There’s no basketball, but they’re just working on defensive slides and stuff like that,” said Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt. “It sort of feels like that, but as a football coach, where we’re really concentrated on footwork and first step and body positioning and playing below pads level and things like that. We’ve almost re-imagined how we train our players, starting from step one through as far as we can get.”

They call their sessions “every day drills,” or “EDDs.” It’s about as coronavirus-safe as football can get, and Schmitt treasures it. If anything, he’s getting more time with his players now than he would when his athletes were balancing other sports and academics now and in the near future.

“They just want to be together, and the coaches, too. It’s just so cool to spend that time where we can joke again, we can laugh, we can put music on, we can run around the field a bit because we desperately want that time,” Schmitt said.

Indian Creek splits off from its neighbors on that front. Athletic director Tyler Larkin said students aren’t permitted on campus, and instead, some teams are opting to hold live Zoom workouts. Basketball, for instance, conducts sessions two days a week while inviting guest speakers to discuss recruiting. Baseball and lacrosse players, on the other hand, are too busy with non-school sponsored summer leagues.

Advertisement

“Our No. 1 priority is getting kids back into the building to do school” Larkin said, “so if we roll out getting back to campus slowly and safely, we feel that’s the best option to get kids back in seats, studying at desks. While sports are important, first and foremost is education.”

St. Mary’s athletic director Allison Fondale is aware the training could be in preparation of a lost season. The schools that compete in the IAAM and MIAA operate independently of the MPSSAA and AACPS, which last month eliminated in-person learning in the first semester. The athletic directors know independence does not necessarily equal business as usual.

“We’re always concerned. We’re always evaluating. It’s changing every day, so we continue, especially with the executive committees, we are constantly evaluating what’s going on in the state of Maryland and what models other people are using as well. If a decision is made, or if something changes, we are as prepared as we can be, to have a plan in place that’s right for our league,” Fondale said.

Fondale values the work the two leagues continue to do in planning what the fall season may look like, every other week. She’s never gotten more face time with other members of the organizations.

“We’re just sharing information, like ‘what are you doing at your school? How can I do this? What are you planning if? What’s your A, B, C, D?’ I think it’s pretty unique,” Fondale said. “We were all strong colleagues in the past, but this has really forced us to work with each other and communicate.”

There are white boards within St. Mary’s hosting work-in-progress plans in case of a re-delayed or canceled season. Key is kicking around the idea of inter-squad scrimmages if that were to happen, as is AACS. Indian Creek would hold three days of specialized workouts, such as cardio andstrength, and bring the teams together on Thursdays and Fridays.

None of that would occur until local and state officials deem that safe to do so.

“A lot of our students have aspirations to play in college. We don’t want to not do anything with them, not engage them at all,” Wolf said. “If it turns out to be we’re not playing games in the fall, we’re going to look to have fun with them and help them improve ... Competitions and playoffs are great and fun, but we’re going to do the best we can no matter where our league lands for the fall.”

Schmitt admires the maturity with which his players are handling the odds of playing competitive football this fall, which, around the nation and even the county, have waned. The Cavaliers coach views this time like a loss after a big game. You wallow, for a minute. You reflect. You look forward.

“It’s my job to make a contingency plan, and I’ve got about three sitting in front of me right now,” Schmitt said. “We can prep for the next thing.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement