For the first time in nearly three months there was activity at Napoleon High School. Buckenmeyer Stadium and the Grand Canyon were alive with the sounds of student-athletes working out and practicing.
“It feels awesome,” said Napoleon senior Jarrett Gerdeman, who was working out with the football team. “I’ve been looking forward to this for nine or 10 weeks. It’s such a good feeling.”
The Napoleon football team was just one of many back in action Monday after Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced skills training was allowed to continue.
The Henry County Health Department went over guidelines with school administrators last week and on Monday student-athletes were once again getting ready for their next season.
Student-athletes were informed of the guidelines, including social distancing (keeping six-feet apart) and not sharing water bottles, by their respective coaches.
“This is not going to be forever,” said Napoleon boys cross country coach Jeff Ressler when addressing his team before practice began. “We are in Phase 1 of three phases. We do our part and it will be good for everybody. We are helping out the football and volleyball teams by doing what we are supposed to be doing.”
The football team used the first day to find out where the players were athletically, taking down times and distances for various skills. They did this in small groups to maintain social distancing.
The girls basketball team also used small groups, while the volleyball program took advantage of the Grand Canyon’s spaciousness for its practices. Volleyball players were required to wash their hands between all drills and the balls were sanitized after each drill as well.
Many of the student-athletes seemed happy to be back practicing with their teammates.
“It was really hard to stay focused without them,” said Napoleon senior Grace Hopkins, who was practicing with the girls soccer team. “It’s good to be back with everyone.”
“It makes me realize how much I missed being with my friends in a sports atmosphere,” said Napoleon senior Olivia Bostleman, who was practicing with the volleyball team.
“The first month my parents were really strict about not going anywhere,” said Napoleon senior girls basketball player Taylor Strock. “I was finally able to work out with some friends. It’s nice to see everyone again.”
Strock added she was excited to shoot baskets inside a gym instead of outside.
“It feels weird not having the sun in my eyes or wind to worry about,” she said.
Sam Wesche, who is running the weight room for all the sports programs, said they are only using the squat rack for core lifting in the weight room currently. Equipment is also set up on both decks of the Grand Canyon to utilize space.
Wesche is also monitoring each student-athlete when they check in for practice, making sure they have self-examined themselves for any COVID-19 symptoms.
Regardless of the limitations or restrictions placed on the players and coaches, high school sports returned Monday and it gave hope to many.
“I am hoping this gets us back to normal,” said Napoleon junior Chase Peckinpaugh, who was at boys soccer practice. “I am hoping our season goes on schedule, but you never know.”
“It gives a lot of hope and see things getting better,” said Napoleon senior Zack Rosebrook, who was at both baseball and football practice Monday. “Looking around this morning and there were people everywhere getting after it. That was great to see.”