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Step by step, Jackson teams getting back to workouts

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Jackson girls basketball coach Anthony Butch (center) talks to his team during a sectional final last year against Lake.

JACKSON TWP. There's no getting around the fact that it's a weird time for sports at all levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the sports world to a stop, ending ongoing seasons and canceling others before they could begin.

Over the past few weeks, some sports have started up in a limited capacity and that means an unusual experience for teams such as the Jackson girls basketball team.

Veteran head coach Anthony Butch has seen a lot during his seven seasons on the bench, but nothing like what he and his team are dealing with now.

"It's been great, we've been back in the gym for three weeks, following strict protocol from our athletic director Dan Michel," Butch said of the squad's recent return to the gym. "The team has really been working hard and it's nice to be back together."

Unlike professional teams, who are resuming or starting seasons largely due to financial reasons, high school teams that are getting back to work are doing so because they love their sport.

Getting back to work also means being safe and following the aforementioned protocols. In addition to state and local guidelines, districts have their own rules and for Jackson, that means safety before, during and after workouts

"Temperature checks by the players and coaches before they arrive ... any symptoms of not feeling well or a fever requires the player to not participate," Butch said, listing the guidelines for his team. "The wearing of masks before and after entering the gym, hand sanitizer used by every player and coach before and after entering the gym, sanitizing of every basketball after they are used and social distancing of six feet when in large groups."

Those rules mean basketball looks different than it typically would, but simply being able to be together and be in the gym has been a welcome thing for the Polar Bears.

Of course, the cloud hanging over everything is the ongoing uncertainty not only of whether sports seasons will be played, but when and how schools will go about returning to the classroom.

Coaches and athletes don't know the answers to those questions and can do little but try to stay ready and hope things will be safe enough to allow them to play.

"There has been a lot of communication between the OHSAA and our administrators," Butch said.

"They set guidelines that are typically created or endorsed by the governor. It's been a week-by-week adjustment by all parties involved."

Even for winter sports such as basketball, there is a sense of urgency to get ready for a possible season, but one potential outcome could be school resuming but the state and school districts could decide that it's not safe or possible to restart sports.

"Yes it sounds like that is a possibility," Butch said of school resuming without sports. "Honestly, we've heard multiple different scenarios regarding school and sports in the fall. In general, everything is still up in the air."

As COVID-19 cases spike in many states, it's clear that the pandemic remains a serious health hazard and even if sports resume on a larger scale, there's also the possibility that a player, coach or official testing positive for the virus could force them to halt once more.

After winning 20 games and snapping a four-decade Federal League title drought last season, Butch and the Polar Bears would love the chance to defend their crown this coming school year. Right now, it's impossible to say if they will and if so, how different basketball will look this time around.