Coaching Through COVID Q&A

Rock Canyon coaches share their views on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts school sports.


media by Murrie Dodge

Varsity cross country athletes Libby Ogden ’21, Sarah Kendall ’22, Aspen Van Ramshorst ’22, and Amanda Bermingham ’22 take a break from cheering for the JV race on Sept 18th. “[Running] has been a nice release of stress, and our team has been doing really good this year so that good to know that our hard work is paying off,” Bermingham stated.

by Murrie Dodge, Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on academic life at Rock Canyon, but it has also largely affected Rock Canyon’s sport seasons. Currently, the four sports that are allowed to compete are Cross Country, Softball, Boy’s Tennis, and Boy’s Golf. Coach Davies, the cross county head coach and Coach Johnson, the boy’s tennis head coach share their perspectives on how COVID has affected sports at Rock Canyon.

Q: How has COVID affected the way practices are run?

A: Coach Davies (Cross Country Head Coach): “As far as running our practices, we’re limited in what we can do, but I think it’s been reasonable enough that it’s let us be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish. Kids have been really good about following the rules, everybody’s done a great job dealing with the COVID-19 situation, so I think it’s great. We have a season, [and] I think we’re really lucky. We should count our blessings that [we have] a winning season.”

A: Coach Johnson (Boys Tennis Head Coach): “The biggest shift that we had was during our matches, because we’re playing different schools so every individual player was given their own can of balls that  I had to write their names on, and they could only touch those balls. So, it became more about awareness of making sure you’re not touching Mountain Vista’s tennis balls, because we don’t interact with them. The mask thing too, usually before a tennis match, there’s a lineup where every team gets on the court, and they go up to each other and shake hands and then they shake the opposing coaches hands. It’s a good luck thing, and we couldn’t do that either so it’s kind of weird. [We had to] stand on opposite sides of the court and when your name is called you just wave, which felt really awkward.  

Q: What do you miss about the way practices used to be?

A: Coach Davies: “Probably the biggest thing I miss is all being together, especially with senior leadership, and the freshmen and the new kids being able to be positively influenced by the seniors. I think that’s one of the things that’s missing. You could notice it when [we’re] breaking off into groups, some other groups don’t have quite the leadership so I just think that team unity [and] all of us being together. Kids new to the program seeing the positive modeling, by the seniors, that’s the biggest thing that we’re missing this year.”

A: Coach Johnson: “I definitely really miss having the alternates come and play. It’s fun to have those kids up with varsity, not only for them to get that higher level of play in case they’re either pulled up from JV or have to be thrown in, and it’s fun to make that camaraderie. Also, it gives them a chance for something to work for because they can experience the varsity practice. I’m also a coach who really likes to get to know the JV team as well, because they are  the future of the program and so it was hard for me not to be able to go hang out with them and check in on them and see how their practices were going. [The team] definitely just felt way more separated. The sport of tennis is so individual, we really push that heavy team aspect, and we couldn’t this year and that was really sad.”

Q: What adaptations have you made to adhere to the COVID guidelines?

A: Coach Davies:  “Well, starting out during  that first phase during the summer, the maximum number of kids that could show up at one time was 25. So, we had to stagger the meeting times. Every 15 minutes [we would have one of those groups run]. We’re doing our best to follow the guidelines and like I said earlier, kids are doing a great job.We’re doing the best we can and dealing with this. No COVID on our team, [which is] positive because there have been a couple schools that have had to quarantine.”

A: Coach Johnson: “At first I thought it was going to have a bigger impact when all of the regulations first came out about tennis. The boys could only touch certain balls, and they had to social distance. There was a conversation about everybody wearing masks but that is kind of loosened, so at practice, there really isn’t a huge impact because the boys are just staying with each other. However, there’s a little bit they have to do, like when they walk up to the courts, they have to be wearing a mask when they step on the courts to start hitting, but then they can take their mask off.”

Q: How do you encourage your athletes to stay positive during this time?

A: Coach Davies: “During this time, the coaching staff has sent the message that you just got to take this one day at a time. You just have to realize that it’s an inconvenience for everybody and try not to look too far ahead, just roll with the punches, and once again, we’re lucky we have a season. We’re fortunate that, you know, once again we’ve got  about a month left and we can get through this. And at least we have a season, even though it’s compromised, but still, it feels like a cross country season.”

A: Coach Johnson: “I think that we’re really grateful that we got a season, and that we haven’t had a lot of things change. We were just grateful to be on the court, and at our first meeting with the varsity team, we just said we have high expectations for this group, but at the end of the day, we just need to have gratitude that we’re allowed to come out and play the sport that we love so much. That was definitely something that kept us going. It’s just become a conversation of ‘don’t lose this right that we’ve been given, you have to take this seriously but also the second you’re on court you’re going to be fine.’ We were just happy that we were one of the four sports to be able to play this season.”

Although this pandemic has caused training for sports to be more difficult, coaches and athletes are confronting these challenges, and adapting their coaching styles to meet necessary changes and requirements.