Burnet High School distance runner Hudson Bennett finished second in the 1,600 meters at the Jacket Relays at Llano High School on March 12 before UIL events were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
Though Burnet High School athletes haven’t practiced since March 20, when the University Interscholastic League “suspended (activities) until further notice” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches are busy planning workouts and communicating with their athletes.
That was the word from head football coach Jerod Rye on March 25.
When the UIL announced it was suspending all practices and activities, it also stated that “the earliest games and contests may resume is Monday, May 4.” The governing body of extracurricular activities in the state intends to give “member schools a reasonable acclimatization period for rehearsals and practices to occur. All decisions remain flexible and will be consistent with the advice of local, state, and federal officials.”
On March 31, Governor Greg Abbott extended school closures across Texas through May 4.
Rye noted the UIL intends for sports seasons that have started to finish.
“They’re careful (not) to give a date because people may hold them to it,” he said.
The health and safety of everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic is a higher priority than sports, the coach said. At the same time, his heart goes out to the seniors who have worked and prepared for their final spring of high school competition with the hopes of returning to playing fields and organized practices soon.
“Health is important,” Rye said, “but it’s still not easier for that kid. To have that taken is tough. The argument that sports is not life and death is one hundred percent true, but kids are still missing out.”
He noted that head coaches of spring sports might be feeling anxious, especially those who have playoff teams or athletes who have shown tremendous promise to medal beyond district meets and tournaments.
The boys soccer team qualified for the Class 4A playoffs for the first time in the history of the program and was trying to get a better seed in District 27-4A with two matches remaining in the regular season. Burnet added soccer four years ago, so this year’s seniors began playing when they were freshmen and helped build the program.
Freshman distance runner Hudson Bennett, the reigning Class 4A Region IV champion in cross country, was expected to do well this spring.
“Obviously, this is tough for those kids and coaches,” Rye said.
The impact of not having track is definitely felt in Burnet. The school was set to host its annual Bulldog Relays on March 26. While the athletes can’t compete, Rye noted that not having the meet also hurts another group.
“It’s a big fundraiser for our booster club,” he said. “Kids are improving times, and we’d be putting in district plans right now. It is tough right now.”
Since practices for spring sports aren’t happening, athletic facilities are closed. Even the weight room at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond in Burnet, which serves as the go-to facility for the Bulldogs when they can’t get into the high school weight rooms, is closed, Rye said.
Therefore, coaches have turned to technology to get their workouts to athletes. Through Team App, they give athletes the number of reps and sets for pushups, sit-ups, and other tried-and-true exercises each day.
Runners also get workouts they can do at home.
Coaches encourage homebound student-athletes to use weights and creative ways to stay in shape such as playing basketball on driveway hoops.
“We have to hope for the best,” Rye said. “The one thing that eases your mind is everybody is in the same boat. Usually, you think, ‘Is someone outworking you?’ But we’re all in the same boat.”
Time management is key. Rye said he and the other head coaches could create workout schedules and drills for when students are expected to return to class. The issue, however, is there’s still uncertainty if they’ll be allowed back on campus. Therefore, coaches continue to prepare as if they’ll be conducting practices at a later date while being flexible if they have to wait longer.
“Every day is pretty important,” Rye said. “Each one of those days is equally important to prepare.”
The staff is holding online meetings with student-athletes as well.
Coaches continue to encourage and hope athletes will work out and stay in competition shape with the full intention of finishing their seasons.
“The best coaches’ quote is ‘your best athletes are also hardest workers,’” Rye said. “Those guys have to understand that’s a respect (their teammates, coaches, and fans) can’t ignore.”