Lauren DeLargy had expected to be on the pitch this fall, enjoying her senior season with the Mountain View girls soccer team.
Instead, she is in the gym a couple of hours a week, getting in limited practice with the Thunder basketball team.
And for that, she considers herself fortunate.
“I’m very lucky,” DeLargy said. “Coach (Dan) Larson has talked about that a little bit — how other schools haven’t been (holding workouts) or haven’t been able to. I’m really glad that he’s been doing his best to get us into the gym safely, so at least we can support each other and work on our skills while we can.”
Last week, as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association began its open coaching period of the revised 2020-21 athletic calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evergreen Public Schools have been the outlier in Southwest Washington, allowing its high school athletic teams to hold limited on-campus workouts.
Cale Piland, athletic director for all Evergreen Public Schools, said it wasn’t a change in policy but a continuation of a district decision to follow guidelines and protocols established by the WIAA last summer.
Those guidelines call for allowing athletes to be limited to pods of five, and those pods, once established, cannot be changed. Other guidelines include masks being required whether workouts occur indoors or outdoors, pre-screening questions, temperature checks, limits on sharing of equipment and a plentiful supply of sanitizing stations.
“It was different,” DeLargy said. “We all had to be at our own hoop with our own basketball with a mask on. But it was still nice to see my teammates and coaches, be in the gym again and get some work done.”
Larson said his early workouts have been limited to a pair of one-hour sessions during the week at 8 a.m.
“It’s been helpful from a basketball standpoint,” Larson said. “But I think more importantly, from a mental standpoint, it’s been great to be around each other, even if it’s from 20 feet away.”
Next week, it appears more schools will begin offering limited workouts.
Fort Vancouver cross country Owen Frasier says he’s been given the green light to hold limited workouts beginning Monday.
“My wife actually got a call last (month) that one of her former students, who is now in middle school, committed suicide,” Frasier said. “I was already missing my kids, and when my wife got that call and after talking to her about it, it just pushed me to the next level of concern and worry about (my athletes’) mental health. I certainly don’t want to get that phone call and go through that. So that really pushed me to become more vocal about trying to get us going to do something with the kids, even if it is in small groups.”
Frasier said he is working on setting up workout sessions both before and after schools, with even some beginning very early in the morning.
“A lot of them don’t have to be up for school until 10 a.m. but they’re willing to come at 6:45 in the morning just to be able to get a chance to get a workout in, see their friends, see their coaches,” Frasier said. “So far the response from the kids has been ‘Tell me where to be and what time, and I’ll make it work.’ ”
Of her 8 a.m. workouts at Mountain View, DeLargy said: “It definitely wakes me up in the morning. I’m not waking up five minutes before my first class starts, and I feel a little bit accomplished before I start my school day.”
Still, other schools around the region are waiting.
“What we’ve been told is the only way we could work with our kids is if (our schools) could get to a hybrid model, even if it was just the elementary schools,” Camas football coach Jon Eagle said.
Without on-campus workouts, most students are left to fend for themselves to stay active.
“I know a lot of my kids have been lifting on their own,” Hockinson football coach Rick Steele said. “They’ve been meeting up and throwing the ball around, doing 7-on-7 stuff with other high school kids in the area. It’s been refreshing for me to watch the kids take the bull by the horns and do things on their own.”
Other athletes have been able to work out with their club teams or personal trainers. But that option isn’t open to everyone.
“Some coaches look at this as it’s some sort of huge competitive advantage,” Frasier said, referring to schools that are allowing workouts. “For me, that hasn’t even been a slightest bit in my head. We want this because we know how badly these kids need it. It’s all about the kids and their mental health.
“A lot of our kids don’t have the same access to facilities, personal trainers and AAU teams as kids at other schools do. For them to be able to work out with their high school coach is everything that they have.”
Piland said the workouts in his school district are completely optional, both to the coach and to the student.
“It’s been hit-and-miss,” Piland said about participation in the district. “Some coaches see the value in it. Other coaches look and see that their season is not until March or the end of April then wonder, that with what we can do, is it worth it? Because to get a full team through a workout, for some coaches with these pods of five, would create a huge time commitment on their part.”
Adam Mathieson, Mountain View’s athletic director and football coach, says that athletics are an extension of the classroom, and, as an educator, he wants kids to be involved in as much as can safely be done.
“Through my lens, right or wrong, if we can bring kids on campus safely, great,” Mathieson said. “And I think our district leadership feels that way, too. As we get guidance from the health department and governor’s office, I believe that we will engage in activities that those people above us deem appropriate and safe. In our district, we’re being allowed to move forward with five kids working out at a time, just like we did in the summer. And you feel good about that.”
Lauren DeLargy certainly does.
“It’s definitely not what I expected for my senior year, and not exactly what I wanted,” the two-sport athlete said. “But I’m glad we’re able to get some gym time. It’s nice to be able to see the girls and maybe improve on my basketball skills. I wish I had a soccer season right now, but it’s OK. It’s the best it can be right now.”