Mt. Ararat football coach Frank True, facing in mask, watches a few of his players work out Tuesday in Topsham. Adam Robinson/The Times Record

High school sports entered a new reopening phase this week, with teams in some counties able to hold small workouts while socially distancing.

The Maine Principals’ Association allowed general conditioning workouts to start Monday. Student-athletes would be placed in pods of 10, and there would be no equipment or sports-specific activities.

At Mt. Ararat, the return of sports — even in a limited capacity — was more than welcomed by coaches and athletes Tuesday afternoon.

“I thought it went well,” said Mt. Ararat cross country coach Diane Fournier, whose pod of athletes practiced yards away from the track and field pod at Mt. Ararat Middle School. “You need to make it fun but still get a workout in. It’s funny, (Mt. Ararat athletic director) Geoff (Godo) said you can’t have any equipment until Phase 2, and I said, ‘So that means my kids can’t wear shoes until Phase 2?’ That’s all the equipment we need.”

Fournier added that a couple of freshmen came out Tuesday, which was a pleasant surprise.

Mt. Ararat football coach Frank True had 14 players show up after just 10 signed up for summer sessions. True has already made sure everyone’s focus is on the same page.

“I think for the most part they’re excited to get out but (complaints of restrictions) is something I put a stop to at the start because it’s something I am going to be a stickler about,” True said. “I don’t want anyone getting sick and so if we want any chance of having a season we need to do this. I want everybody healthy.”

Godo was excited to see student-athletes working out responsibly.

“The coaches are doing the best they can to follow the guidelines but it’s an adjustment for all of us,” Godo said. “You’ll see me or a coach saying, ‘Spread out a bit more,’ but they’re doing well. It’s good to get out and reconnect with coaches and players in real life as opposed to behind a screen. At the end of the day, we have to be focused on what we can do to get them into school but I think the last four months have taken a toll on some of these kids so to get them out it’s good and healthy for all of us.”

The Mt. Ararat field hockey and girls basketball teams worked out at the same time. Field hockey coach Krista Chase, also a guidance counselor at the school, knows all too well the importance of student-athletes getting back on a field to work out.

“One of the things we decided to do was combine with the girls basketball program, mostly so the girls can see more people,” Chase said. “They haven’t seen friends in months so we wanted to make that connection — even between sports — happen for them. We are excited and this is all unknown. I have been coaching for 21 years and this is the first time I’ve had to coach during a pandemic. There’s been so much work and we are all working 20-times harder even though it doesn’t feel like there’s not much production. Just seeing these girls and that relationship, there is nothing more important.”

Chase and Mt. Ararat girls basketball coach and Lisbon field hockey coach Julie Petrie said face-to-face communication is vital, even if socially distanced.

“There’s a lot of anxiety, not just with sports but education, so it’s nice to be with them and try to figure out what our lives will be like,” Chase said. “It’s so hard, we’ve really missed each other but especially for adolescents, high school is when you see each other and bond and plan and do, and they’ve done a great job of hunkering down but I think they need to get out a little bit and engage in productive, healthy activity. We can all hunker down for a few months but now we are anticipating the next year and so there are a lot of concerns and worries among all of us, but especially the kids.”

“This will give them a good reprieve for an hour,” Petrie added. “It’s nice to see faces, get to work with them, because I feel like they value what they get out of the summer so I am excited to see them.”

Coaches at the school are doing a lot of running drills these first two weeks while still planning for the next phase of training and a possible season. Every sport has been working on ways to comply with social distancing guidelines.

“I think every school is in the same boat and we will do everything we can to keep the kids engaged,” Godo said.


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