Indoor workouts for high school athletes squeaked to an abrupt stop this week when the state tightened COVID-19 restrictions.
Outdoor workouts, with certain restrictions, could continue. It was assumed that would apply to sports like football or soccer.
However, one local coach is going to try to make it work for his basketball team.
Jim Wilmoth has invited interested members of his Evergreen girls basketball team to take part in limited workouts under the covered outdoor court at neighboring Cascade Middle School.
“We’ve gone through all the guidelines and I’ve consulted with people, and the outdoor thing is OK,” Wilmoth said. “Obviously our athletic director (Cale Piland) made it clear that we have to be very careful about the weather. And we have to mask up. As a high-risk sport, there is no contact and we have to stay six feet apart. But we’re just going to try to keep it going, keep some momentum going.”
Wilmoth took over the Evergreen program in September, becoming the team’s fourth head coach in the past three seasons. So when Evergreen Public Schools began allowing coaches to hold limited workouts in late September, he jumped at the chance to get his players in the gym.
“I took over a program in the middle of a pandemic with no access to students,” the longtime former assistant coach said. “And we’ve just started in the last few weeks to get more participation. The kids were just starting to connect with this, so this was the worst time to hit a roadblock. We’re going to give it a shot outdoors. We’ll go two days a week for about an hour. Just do fundamental skills stuff, dribble the ball around, maybe get on the track a little bit and go home.”
Wilmoth realizes that holding workouts outside in the middle of November is far from ideal. But these days, that’s about as close as anyone can get to ideal.
“A lot of the coaches I network with — and of course they’re established and have more history with their kids — they’re just going to shut down completely, ride the four weeks out and see where we’re at,” Wilmoth said.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association sent out an update on its COVID-19 protocols, stating that all indoor activities were to cease in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-week restrictions which took effect Tuesday.
The WIAA’s Executive Board was meeting Tuesday night and is expected to provide an update Wednesday regarding the status of high school sports resuming in January. But given the surging cases across the county, state and nation, those prospects look bleak.
“Realistically, most of us are pretty pessimistic about where it’s headed at this point,” Wilmoth said. “But with the kids, you try to stay optimistic and leave a little hope out there that we might have something down the road.”
Wilmoth is unsure how many players will want to head outdoors. He has told his players and their parents that these workouts are completely optional. But he also understands the value to his players’ physical and mental well-being.
“I’m very aware of how dangerous (the virus) is and how badly it can go,” said Wilmoth, who works in logistics for Kaiser Permanente. “I’ve seen it firsthand, so I’m very cautious about what we will be doing.
“I just want to get these kids out and keep making a connection, because we starting to build some of that. I’m starting to gain their trust. … Trust is huge thing with these kids, and they’re going through a huge thing with this pandemic and new coach. It’s a chore to get them to buy in and keep working. I just don’t want to stop that.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.