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File / The Outlook Most local volleyball coaches are waiting until June 8 to begin athletic activities even though the AHSAA has permitted member schools to begin Monday.

One big benefit for football teams when trying to follow the AHSAA’s guidelines for returning to athletic activities Monday is, for the most part, they can do a lot outside.

But that advantage isn’t there for volleyball teams, which are also planning their comebacks after a long hiatus.

“It’s a whole new world for everybody,” Central Coosa coach Chris Elliott said. “We’re all having to adjust accordingly so we’re all in this together. We’re all having to do it, so it’s just something you gotta do.”

Regardless of the difficulties that’ll come with following the new protocols, local coaches unanimously agreed just having a date to return came with a sense of excitement.

“Of course you’re excited but then you think, ‘OK, what now?’” Benjamin Russell coach Magan Ford said. “I’m excited about being able to get back to work, but there are so many new restrictions and guidelines, and we want to see how the girls are feeling and how the parents are feeling. There’s a lot of steps that we have to go through. But I love the girls and I love the sport, so I’m excited.”

Most local coaches have decided to hold off until June 8 to begin even though the AHSAA has said teams can begin workouts and conditioning Monday. Elliott and the Cougars are still waiting to find out which day their school system will deem them OK to return.

Elliott and Horseshoe Bend coach Julie Turner both agreed their biggest priorities will be figuring out who is coming out for their teams and what their rosters are actually going to look like. But a big challenge is going to come with how to set up workouts, especially when masks are required for those who cannot maintain a 6-foot distance.

“I’m going to try to do as much without weights as possible the first few weeks, so we don’t even have to worry about that,” Turner said. “We’ll be doing a lot more cardio and maybe ease into the weight room and some of the guidelines might change by then. We have to be so flexible, and I’m a planner. I like to have everything lined out and I’m just having to go with the flow so that’s been hard for me.”

Turner said one idea she was toying with was putting off bringing the JV team back until July to keep the numbers down.

As for Ford and the Wildcats, she’s trying to look at some of these guidelines as a positive. With such a young team, she knew fundamentals and basics were going to be a big focus for her squad and having to stay within the guidelines will force more of that.

“I don’t want to say it’s a good thing but it’s helpful for the team that we have coming back because we’re going to be so young,” Ford said. “We lost six seniors, so really being able to slow down and get back to the basics, that’ll help up especially being limited. I won’t be able to push them to have other things to worry about; we’ll really be able to back up and give these kids the focus they need to build foundations.”

Ford also said Benjamin Russell athletic director Pam Robinson, who was a longtime volleyball coach, has been a huge mentor in terms of helping her come up with creative drills and things to work on while maintaining social distancing. As for those who aren’t yet comfortable returning to athletics, trainer Marty McCann is continuing to develop at-home workouts to keep those girls up to speed.

Although the coaches are ready to get back to work, they also know how important it’s going to be to follow these guidelines, especially given such uncertainty.

“I love to win as much as the next person but if my love to win overrides my care of these girls, there’s a problem,” Ford said. “My No. 1 priority is these girls. I was excited as soon as they lifted the restrictions because I was excited to see them but my next thought was, ‘How can I keep these girls safe?’ Most people that get into coaching, that’s their priority.

“They give us everything we’ve got, so we’ve gotta give them everything we’ve got. Once we keep them safe, we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.