JACKSON TWP. In a normal year, school would be nearing the end of its year, sending students out into their summer.
In that type of year, the work of fall and winter sports teams would barely slow down as players worked on their own and coaches planned summer activities such as hosting camps, traveling to team camps and playing in summer leagues.
Clearly, this is no normal year or normal time in the world or in sports. The physical school building has been closed for nearly two months and with it, all sports and school activities.
That's left coaches and players with an eye on their sport returning later this year walking the line between staying sharp and active while gyms and weight rooms are closed and social distancing prevents team gatherings.
Jackson varsity girls basketball coach Anthony Butch, seven years into his tenure on the Polar Bears' bench, is among those figuring things out as they roll along.
"At this point, we are hoping to have summer open gyms and anything that the state will allow us to do," Butch said. "If group activities aren't permitted, we are planning on individual workouts and film study using a variety of films."
At present, the state of Ohio is gradually reopening and some businesses that have been shuttered are being allowed to return, but others – including gyms and fitness facilities – are still closed.
There has been no official word on when they'll be allowed to reopen and when school and sports activities will be permitted.
Also in the air, along with camps and team workouts, is summer AAU basketball, in which many players take part. With gyms locked up and some players having nowhere to shoot, dribble and play, clearly there will be a lot of rust built up whenever basketball returns on top of possible conditioning issues due to a lack of places to get in a full, typical workout.
Butch says it's tough to estimate the rust, but believes the conditioning side of the equation will be an issue.
"I'm honestly not sure to what extent there will be rust but I'm sure there will be a lot of out of shape kids," Butch said.
The groups that could find the current state of basketball inactivity the most detrimental would seem to be those trying to make the jump from junior varsity to varsity, or from middle school to high school hoops.
Missing out on some or all of summer basketball could take away chances to get in reps and show coaches what they can do, but according to Butch, whenever basketball is back, it will be a simple case of competing and showing whether or not a player has done the necessary work and can contribute to the team.
"From a basketball standpoint, our philosophy has always been and will continue being the best will play, so any player wanting to earn a specific spot will have to put in the work and will be given the same opportunity as every other girl," Butch said. "The tough part will be making up all the team bonding and relationship building that takes place throughout the summer."
That bonding for Jackson typically includes a trip out of state to a team camp hosted by a college or university and summer league play, both of which help build chemistry.
For now, the schedule is limited to weekly Zoom meetings and a group text message thread to keep everyone connected.
The focus now is on the road ahead, but the 2019-20 season is one that will forever linger as an odd and unfinished one for all winter sports teams in Ohio.
Their seasons were cut off by the COVID-19 pandemic, with tournaments in basketball, wrestling and other winter sports canceled at various stages of completion.
Jackson, whose season ended with an upset loss early in the tournament, finished 20-3 but with a bit of a sour taste from the tournament loss. For that and other reasons, they're eager to get back to hoops, though Butch admits he does feel bad for the teams who were still alive in the tournament but lost their chance to compete for a state title.
The race to get ready for the next state title will be a truncated one, meaning it will be essential for Jackson and other schools around the area to hit the ground sprinting when sports resume.