Area coaches and athletes were pumped about the return of summer conditioning and workouts this past week. Westwood senior Donovan Barrett even called his return to the weight room “therapy.”
After more than three months of no sports, courtesy of COVID-19, sweat never felt so good.
“I feel that burn and it's amazing,” Frankston senior athlete Tyler Fridinger said after his Thursday practice. “I missed this energy. I'm taking it all in because we don't know when it can be taken away again.”
Student athletes in football and volleyball no longer take pre-COVID norms for granted.
“We're finally here,” Frankston senior Brink Bizzell said. “This has made me work harder. I missed my guys.”
Said Westwood senior athlete Jaci Weston: “I have to make the most of every moment. I have a greater appreciation entering my final season. The experiences and the practices I want to enjoy.”
Athletes know another suspension is, literally, close at hand. It happened in East Texas this week.
The Dallas Morning News reported a Stark (West Orange) player tested positive; as a precaution, the school district suspended all workouts for 14 days. It's a harsh reminder of the threat COVID-19 continues to pose for athletic programs nationwide.
The West Orange-Cove school district reported the player had notified his coach Tuesday of possible exposure through a family member. On Wednesday, Head Coach Cornel Thompson advised the player and his workout partner to get tested.
When the student confirmed a positive test, the district suspended workouts for the entire squad, even though the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body, recommends only players and coaches in the one group isolate for two weeks.
Westwood Athletic Director Richard Bishop stressed starting these workouts didn't guarantee a fall season. Spikes in coronavirus cases could lead to alterations, or even cancellation, of the season.
Westwood athletes were at the doors of their newly renovated workout facility at 6:45 a.m. each day this week, looking to seize the moment.
Starting on June 22, the UIL will begin to relax some of its initial guidelines.
Westwood, Frankston, Grapeland, and Slocum were among the area high schools to reopen this past week. Other schools, such as Palestine, Elkhart, and Cayuga, start their summer programs Monday.
It's all a hopeful sign for athletics this fall, and coaches and players were caught up in the moment.
“I haven't yelled in two and a half months,” Westwood head volleyball coach Daylyn Harris said jokingly. “You get so used to being here everyday. It's a different approach and mindset for me now.”