Everyone was ready to get back on the field last Monday when the AHSAA cleared schools to begin athletic activities again and while some programs hit the field as soon as possible, others wanted to take the extra time to prepare.
Wetumpka coach Tim Perry knew several teams across the state started before his team did but he believes the extra precaution and readiness to deal with the new guidelines will pay off in the long run. Wetumpka hit the field for the first time Tuesday, more than a week after the campus reopened.
“We wanted to start (last week) but we didn’t feel ready to do it safely,” Perry said. “We didn’t have enough masks or water bottles. Like everybody, we had to scramble around for cleaning solutions because everyone was on hold. It just really gave us time to prepare and meet as coaches to think through this and double check our plan before the players got up here. That time was really beneficial.”
The extra time did not take away any of the excitement from the first practice, especially because the team had not been together since March. The coaching staff may have even shown more excitement than the players.
“I don’t know how excited everyone else was but I was very excited,” Perry said. “I woke up at 4:30 (Tuesday) morning and I couldn’t wait to get started. It’s been almost three months since we have been together and it seems like longer.”
While getting back in shape and beginning football activities is important, just being back together as a team is not something to be overlooked.
“It feels good to be back out on the field with my teammates,” Wetumpka senior Brandon Bowman said. “We’ve been off for a minute. (Three) months is too long. We have to get our team bonding back and start building that chemistry back up.”
Perry said the first practice started by making sure each player understood what practice was going to look like with the new guidelines and restrictions in place. The team split up into three groups as the coaching staff wanted to slow down each aspect of the practice to give everyone an understanding of what needed to be done moving forward.
“We know (what’s at stake),” Bowman said. “We are missing our 7-on-7 right now so it may take some time. It’s tough with it being my senior year but it is what it is. We talk about it a lot.”
The team soon got to work on the physical activities with a big focus on getting back into shape. Perry said that will be the central point of practice for at least the first week.
Wetumpka wrapped up its practice by spreading players out around the practice field and running 100-yard sprints in small groups to keep a good distance between everyone. While the players still have a long way to go to make up for the lost time before being ready for August, the coaches were pleasantly surprised at how the team performed on day one.
“We were extremely encouraged by our physical conditioning,” Perry said. “We devised a little conditioning test and told them about it during our zoom workouts so they would be prepared for it. They surpassed our expectations. We expected for guys not to be able to finish and to pull out but that never happened. We’re not in the type of shape we would be in but considering the amount of time we had off, we were extremely encouraged.”