The first practices of the year went as expected last week, even with COVID-19 precautions in place.
The pandemic is causing the postponement or cancellation of fall high school sports around the nation and the Kansas City and Wichita areas closer to home. But Chanute’s outdoor teams were practicing behind the press box at the Chanute Community Sports Complex while crews finish overlaying the track. The volleyball team was in the high school gym and the golf team had tee time at Stone Creek Golf Course.
Girls head tennis coach Mike De La Torre said they are making sure their players had masks on and were social distancing. De La Torre also ensured his players brought in their own water bottles, and coaches were the only people permitted to put water in the bottles.
De La Torre said, all things considered, the first week of practice went well.
“We’ve had good practices here every day. I’m really pleased with the attitude, the work ethic that they’re showing,” De La Torre said. “We’ve had really good practices. You can tell these girls are ready to play against somebody else other than themselves.”
In an effort to not compromise the season with all the KSHSAA health standards and common sense, De La Torre did note how precarious the time was.
“I have never been through a season like this and it’s only been a week old, and just having to do this, hand sanitizer, take their temperature, everything we have to do is just so unusual and so different, and I just wish we can play tennis, but we’ve got to be safe because if we’re not, we may not have a season, and so we’re going to do everything we can to have a season and so that’s why we do the things that we do.”
Football players have also been practicing health standards all summer thanks to head coach Clete Frazell. Last week, coaches for the first time were getting ready for players to practice with pads on and Friday was the first day of full contact.
Still, players through the week were in individual and group drills, polishing up their inside running, passing games and the defense before the team came together to practice as a whole.
“It’s been a good week so far. We’ve had some exciting progress from guys since last year, (they) stepped up and were a lot better, and they got after it and worked hard,” Frazell said. “So it’s been a good week, ready to play some football.”
But the second-year head coach was fully aware of how exactly he was conducting practice in comparison to years past.
“It’s different for sure, but at the end of the day, we are still out here playing football, and I’m loving it,” Frazell said. “It’s been an adjustment to find the right mask and things like that that you can breathe through; it’s different, but we’re loving it. Everybody’s happy that we are out here.”
While football fans are happy there will at the very least be a start to the high school football season, futbol fans are just as happy their favorite game will also begin. With CHS’ soccer team kicking off their season with the first official week of practice, head soccer coach Adam Wilcox gave his thoughts on the early year.
“It’s gone really good. We had a ton of kids that came out this summer and it’s nice to see the same group out here, so we kind of got a good jump to the season. All these guys have been here for two months playing with each other, so now it’s nice to get it more formal and locked in,” Wilcox said. “...We want to play; keeping everybody safe is first priority. I’m in a mask. Unless I’m in a drill with them, I’m in a mask. We do temperature checks at the beginning of practice and whenever we go into discussion time or they’re getting water or huddled up, they pull up their masks. But yeah, it’s weird. None of us have ever done anything like this. And then compounding this with the heat, it’s another obstacle...”
Every CHS team – and other Kansas high school teams who are going ahead with their fall sports – will go through these obstacles. Chanute’s volleyball, golf and cross country teams have used precautions as well.
They are all ramping up for one and only one thing: the start of the season.
The tennis team’s first meet, the Chanute Invitational, is Thursday at 3 pm versus Labette County, Iola, Columbus and Neodesha. With no regularly-scheduled football jamboree, Chanute’s next big event will be their first game at 7 pm Sept. 4 hosting Circle High School. Soccer will start Sept. 1 at 4:30 pm at Columbus High School.
Volleyball competition will also begin Sept. 1 at Burlington High School, while cross country’s first meet of the year is Sept. 3 in Anderson County and golf’s first league tournament is Sept. 1 in Oswego, hosted by Labette County.