Jason Werner is optimistic about this test run.
He’s served as Indian Creek’s boys lacrosse coach for six years, and he’ll continue to do so for now. But Werner will also be taking on the additional role of being the Eagles’ interim athletic directorthis school year as Tyler Larkin, Indian Creek’s athletic director since 2018, expands his role into admissions, outreach and campus programs.
Midway through the year, Werner hopes Larkin and head of school Kyle Booth will decide he’s the best fit to remain in the job permanently.
The trials and tribulations of the 2020 season made Werner realize how much he likes the Indian Creek athletics world outside of the lacrosse field. Though some private schools held part of a sports season last fall, Indian Creek chose not to. Without games happening on campus, Werner helped Larkin put together programs to bring the athletes on campus for a number of practice sessions.
“That sparked my interest in getting to know more student athletes and more of the coaches through that,” Werner said. “That’s kind of why I jumped at the opportunity when it came about, to give it a shot to do it full time.”
Werner has no intentions of leaving the Eagles boys lacrosse program, which made it to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference semifinal this spring. He’ll figure out what that will really look like come spring, when he has to juggle guiding his own program to success while also handling everyone else’s. But should he be called away during a practice or game, Werner has full trust in his assistant coaches to handle the team.
“It’s something we can definitely make work,” he said.
The interim athletic director has one hope this year: make it through a full athletics season under a sense of normalcy. Though no season will be like 2020, Werner is also fully cognizant of coronavirus’ lasting presence. And, as of late, that presence has only grown, with variants such as delta — which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers more contagious — beginning to take hold across the country.
On Monday, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman reinstated mask mandates in some government buildings and tests for unvaccinated county employees starting Sept. 13, and advised county residents to start masking indoors. The CDC included Anne Arundel in its list of seven Maryland counties that has “substantial” transmission.
Barring the technical possibility that fall sports are delayed, Werner’s goal is to celebrate the athletes that missed out on opportunities last September — especially freshmen and sophomores who have yet to play in a high school game.
“We’re going to have an emphasis on community-building in this first week of practice, when all of the athletes are on campus at the same time,” Werner said. “I think athletes really miss that and need that.”
Indian Creek held multiple vaccination clinics last spring and had a good turnout. Werner can only speak to the lacrosse team’s participation rate, but he said he can’t think of an eligible player that didn’t take the shot.
“I really think we were on the forefront of doing our part to try to make our community safe and obviously get the schools that we are competing against safe as well,” Werner said. “It’s kind of part of our culture.”
Even if other COVID-related problems do arise, last year’s experiences have armed Werner for it.
“I think we’re ready for just about anything,” he said. “I’m always keeping in the back of my mind that challenges are going to pop up, but I don’t think we’re going to face anything we haven’t already been through.”