Football players are throwing footballs into nets instead of playing catch with teammates. Basketball players are rebounding their own shots, never passing the ball to a teammate. Others are planking instead of bench pressing in the weight room.
But it's certainly better than nothing.
Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high school student-athletes began voluntary on-campus workouts Oct. 5. This week, the athletes were finally able to use some athletic equipment. But they could never, under any circumstance, share that equipment with a teammate.
So, on Tuesday, Nipomo quarterbacks Nate Reese and Nick Milton weren't playing catch with teammates. Instead they were working with quarterback coach Erik Terry on mechanics drills before throwing the ball into a net and then retrieving that same ball after one throw.
Nipomo High girls basketball players were finally able to use basketballs at their practices this week, though, once again, they could only touch their own, never retrieving or passing a teammate's basketball.
This is the current state of athletics in the area amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nipomo and Arroyo Grande are wrapping up their second week of having athletes back on campus. Russ Edwards, Nipomo High's athletic director, and Stephen Field, who holds the same post at Arroyo Grande, agreed that things have gone quite well at both school sites. Edwards and Field worked hand-in-hand to prepare their respective schools to bring athletes back to campus.
Athletes participating in the upcoming 'fall' sports season and some of the 'spring' sport athletes returned on a voluntary basis, Edwards said. Those sports include girls basketball, cheer, cross country, football, girls soccer, boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo. No programs are working out five days a week at Nipomo, Edwards said. Students are working out in pods of 14 students with a coach working with each pod every day.
"I've never seen as many happy, out-of-shape kids as I saw last week," Edwards said. "This week, we've had more and more kids getting all their clearance materials in so they can start."
Edwards and Field said each school has had about 250 kids participating in these voluntary workouts.
"We are slowly moving forward – we implemented individual equipment this week and we're excited to hopefully start sharing that equipment soon, pending county approval," Field said. "It's great to get kids back in general and get them on campus. Our top priority is to keep them safe."
Nipomo High athletes had the process down pat this week. Most students were dropped off by parents and all students wore masks when arriving to campus on Tuesday. All students turn in a daily half-sheet COVID-19 questionnaire which are then processed by athletic trainer Andrew Boortz.
The athletes remove their masks once working within their pods. The Nipomo girls basketball players worked with new coach Chris Litvinchuk on the blacktop as the temperature neared 100 degrees Tuesday. Litvinchuk led his girls through an appropriately intense workout and the players seemed to enjoy the challenge.
"The enthusiasm and the spirit of the girls is high, I think they're excited to get back working out together," Litvinchuk said. "They haven't had organized sports since March. Even though it's conditioning and light workouts, I think it's been a pleasant experience for them. It's an optional thing and they're out here because they want to get better and I appreciate that."
Tony Dodge was happy to have his football team back out at Nipomo High. He's had about 40-50 kids a day for 90-minute workouts four days a week, with that bumping up to two hours a day by the end of the month.
"I'm glad they keep coming back because it's not easy," Dodge said. "Some of the coaches are making it pretty hard on 'em and they keep coming back. That's a positive sign."
The high school football season kicks off Jan. 8, with Nipomo playing Cabrillo.
Field said he's not quite sure how and when the schools will find out if they can expand their protocols, like being able to have athletes share equipment.
Also, multi-sport athletes are currently having to choose which sport they'd like to train with as they are not allowed to change cohorts after entering one. For instance, Nipomo volleyball players who are also on the basketball team are training with the volleyball team as that sport's season will start in January and basketball will start in March.
"It's been a whirlwind for me and everybody else," Field said of this whole process. "But it's reflective of what we've all been dealing with, all of our lives have, kind of, halted then restarted in a certain way. It's no different for us in the athletic realm. Just like businesses, we've had to reevaluate how we are doing things. All that kind of stuff, it definitely does have its challenges. This last week was a great example of that work. It's great to see kids back and it's a step in the right direction."
GBB: Player of the Decade Voting Week 1
No. 1 Aly Beebe vs. No. 16 Rylee Sager
Former St. Joseph star Aly Beebe is the No. 1 seed.
Beebe, who helped the Knights win back-to-back CIF Southern Section titles during her freshman and sophomore seasons, won a CIF State title her junior season as she developed into one of the most dominant players in the entire state, if not the country.
Beebe signed with Stanford after graduating from St. Joseph in 2012, though never played for the Cardinal and eventually retired after numerous injuries to her knee.
Beebe will square off against Lompoc's Rylee Sager, the No. 16 seed. Sager, a 5-foot-7 guard, played in 107 games in four years at Lompoc, scoring 1,104 points.
The former Brave averaged 14 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.3 steals per game as a senior, leading Lompoc to a 22-7 overall record and 13-1 mark in the Los Padres League.
No. 2 Ashlyn Herlihy vs. No. 15 Ravynn Anielski
Arroyo Grande graduate Ashlyn Herlihy is the No. 2 seed. Herlihy averaged 22 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 5.5 blocks per game as a senior at Arroyo Grande. She was named the Times' All-Area MVP as a junior.
Herlihy went on to play at Santa Clara. She redshirted there in 2016-17 and has grown into a starting role the last two seasons, averaging over 10 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Herlihy earned All-West Coast Conference honors the last two years. She's started 61 games the last two seasons.
Herlihy will face No. 15 seed Ravynn Anielski in the first round.
After finishing 19 games under .500 in Anielski's sophomore season, she led the Panthers to a 17-9 record (11-1 in league games) as a junior.
She scored 19.2 points a game that year, adding 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 3.2 steals.
Anielski was named the Times' All-Area MVP that year and she earned Ocean League MVP honors.
No. 3 Molly Schlemer vs. No. 14 Syenna Ramirez
Former Righetti standout Molly Schlemer is the No. 3 seed. The 6-foot-5 post averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in her final season with the Warriors. She also blocked 2.5 shots a game.
At Cal Poly, Schlemer started all 32 games for the Mustangs during the 2013-14 season, averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds a game, all in under 30 minutes a contest.
Schlemer will face No. 14 seed Syenna Ramirez. She averaged over 17 points a game as a senior at St. Joseph, going from role player to the best player on her team.
Ramirez culminated her St. Joseph career with a 427-point senior season. In addition to scoring 17 points, Ramirez added 2.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game that season.
No. 4 Mariah Cooks vs. No. 13 Simone Swain
Another former Righetti star, Mariah Cooks, is the No. 4 seed. Cooks was named the PAC 7 League MVP as she averaged 21.7 points per game and 12 rebounds in league play as a senior.
She led the Warriors to the quarterfinals of the playoffs averaging 22 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. She also earned All-CIF honors. Cooks went on to play four seasons at Washington State in the Pac-12.
Cooks will face Simone Swain, the No. 13 seed, in the first round. Swain won a CIF-SS title at Valley Christian.
During that 2013-14 title-winning season, Swain averaged 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds a game as she led the Lions to a 21-4 record and a 10-0 run through the CVL. She added 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game that year.
No. 5 Tatiana Dunlap vs. No. 12 Hailey King
Tatiana Dunlap, another former St. Joseph standout, is the No. 5 seed. Dunlap, an all-time great defender, scored over 1,300 points in three seasons with the Knights.
During her senior season, the 5-foot-8 guard averaged 23.7 points, 3.0 assists, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game as the Knights went 19-9. Dunlap played at Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Lutheran.
Santa Ynez grad Hailey King, the No. 12 seed, will face Dunlap in the first round.
King, who suffered a torn ACL and missed nearly all of her junior season before she made it back to the Pirate lineup as a senior in 2010-11, scored 427 points in her final prep season, leading Santa Ynez to the Los Padres League title, the Pirates' most recent league championship in girls hoops. King played at Cal State Fullerton.
No. 6 Kaitlyn Flowers vs. No. 11 Danielle Morgan
Kaitlyn Flowers is the No. 6 seed. As a senior in the 2013-14 season, Flowers averaged 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 4.8 steals per game.
As a sophomore, she scored 18 points a game, adding 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 4.4 steals per game and 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.7 steals per game as a junior.
Flowers meets former Lompoc High standout Danielle Morgan, the No. 11 seed who's currently at Hancock.
Morgan topped 1,000 career points with the Braves, finishing her prep career with 1,186 points.
Morgan averaged 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a senior.
No. 7 Erin Jenkins vs. No. 10 Shnyia Tell
Erin Jenkins, the former Cabrillo standout, is the No. 7 seed. Jenkins and Beebe are the only back-to-back All-Area MVPs of this past decade.
Jenkins currently plays at Northwest Nazarene University. Jenkins averaged 20.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.3 steals per game as a senior with the Conqs.
Jenkins meets the No. 10 seed, Shnyia Tell, in the first round. Tell earned one All-Area MVP honor during her time at Pioneer Valley.
At 5-foot-10, Tell averaged 10 rebounds a game for her entire four-year varsity career. She averaged a double-double in both her junior and senior seasons.
Tell averaged 16 points, 13.3 rebounds as a senior with 2.6 steals per game.
No. 8 Danita Estorga vs. No. 9 Heather Madrigal
Danita Estorga, yet another former Righetti great, is the No. 8 seed. Estorga, currently playing at Biola University, averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game over her final two seasons with the Warriors.
She helped Righetti go 47-10 in the final two years with the program. They went 26-2 in league those two seasons.
Estorga will meet Heather Madrigal, the No. 9 seed, in the first round. Madrigal won four CIF titles in four years in high school, winning either a CIF State championship or a CIF Southern Section crown every year.
Madrigal went 48-0 in league in high school, spending the first three years at St. Joseph before transferring to Arroyo Grande.
Madrigal averaged 16.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game in her one season with the Eagles . At St. Joseph she averaged 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
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