Staying on track… Local coaches relying on teams to stay individually focused and working

Published 8:39 am Thursday, March 26, 2020

With the announcement on Tuesday by Governor Bill Lee that schools will remain closed through at least April 24th, the area spring sports team once again took a collective breathe wondering if they would have an opportunity to participate in their respective sport.
Making it even more difficult is the fact that not only can the teams play in scheduled games, they aren’t even allowed to gather together to practice and hone their techniques.
That’s where their coaches are putting faith in them to follow through with the training they have been given to stay sharp with the hopes of once again coming together as a team.
Coach Ken Hardin of the Elizabethton Lady Cyclone softball team knows that girls and boys process situations differently but Hardin is also confident that his young team will do whatever is necessary to be prepared should schools open again this semester.
“Most of our players are highly dedicated, that’s one of the reasons we were playing well with a very young team,” Hardin said. “They come out any time there is extra hitting or fielding. Most will work out with their dads. The problem is having a place to go. Our facilities are shut down.
“I really hope we get to go back in May if, for no other reason, we would like to honor our seniors, Maggie Johnson, Kaylen Shell, Marley Wagner, and Emmagrace Wilson. They have been great for our program and have set examples for the younger ones.
“If we get to go back, it would give us an opportunity to get an idea about next season. All the time we can get on the field will be priceless.”
From a baseball standpoint, Hampton head coach Nicholas Perkins knows that the bottom line to success for a team whether in a full or shortened season is the preparation of a pitching staff.
For that reason, Perkins made sure that his pitchers knew what was expected of them and even some of his team leaders stepped up to make videos for the team to continue to work at home by during the shutdown.
“Preparing arms to throw in general, and pitchers to pitch specifically is why we go through a detailed dynamic warmup/arm care and scripted throwing program daily,” Perkins said. “The throwing arm in baseball is unique to all sports.  In our case for Bulldog Baseball, we have given pitchers and non-pitchers drills and arm care they can do at home.
“We sent them a video of our warmup and junior, Josh Owens was willing to have videos recorded of him going through all of our drills, so our pitchers would have visuals to refer back to. 

“It’s not the same as pitching in a game off of the slope trying to get a batter out, but we do want all of our players to keep their bodies and brains wired for throwing a ball,” Perkins continued.
“I credit my time with the National Pitching Association, founded by pitching/quarterback coach, Tom House, for teaching me a multitude of things a pitcher can do to take care of their arm and improve as pitchers, many that do not involve releasing a baseball, which we hope will allow our pitchers and non-pitchers to quickly bounce back.”
One of the most asked if not thought about questions most spring sports players may be asking either themselves or their coaches is whether they will actually get to participate in their sport again this school year.
It’s one of the most unknown answers that anyone can answer at this time as no one really knows what the next month, two months, or even six months holds with the current state of what is transpiring throughout the world.
However, one thing that coaches can agree on is their desire to hopefully see their teams return to a sense of normalcy especially the senior members of their teams.
“Our seniors are very committed and they know their coaches are as well,” Hardin said. “We will do everything in our power to get these kids back on the field.
“When we do go back our seniors will lead and push the rest of our team. We try to stay positive and expect our players to do the same.”
Perkins echoed the same sentiment concern his senior Bulldog players.
“As far as our seniors, I have two daughters,” Perkins commented. “Many of these young men are the type a parent would be pleased to have as future sons-in-law.
“They have put so much time and effort into working to be the best players they can be, so we can be the best program we can be.
“It’s heartbreaking for them and their families that they had their senior seasons suspended after only three games, after only playing one game under the lights at Scotty Bunton Field, but, at this point, we do pray they can play postseason baseball, and that our baseball players who play basketball can join them and the rest of the team, so we can be together as a baseball family in 2020.”
And while coaches always try to keep that strong, stalwart appearance on the outside, they are no different from anybody else in the hurt that kids are experiencing today as a result of being held hostage by an enemy such as the Coronavirus which is causing upheaval in the lives of everyday Americans who are only trying to live the American dream while raising their families and seeing their children grow.

“It’s heartbreaking, I know how much our kids, parents, and coaches care about what we are doing,” Hardin added.

“We have some special players on this team, and have more coming from the eighth grade and our staff will continue to give the best effort we can to develop our players and program.

“I hope to get back out there and let these kids enjoy the game we all love.”

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Hardin was asked that if the teams can get back on the field and knowing that the TSSAA has stated that spring sports don’t need to have a regular-season to be able to participate in post-season games if teams could possibly even be ready to play at a level needed in a district tournament and beyond.

“Softball is a great game and anyone can get hot at the right time and anything is possible,” Hardin responded. “If we go back I think we will play conference games and then go to the district.
“We will have to get ready quick and give it all we can. All of the other teams are in the same situation.”