GALESBURG — In 26 years of coaching volleyball at Galesburg High School, Marla Clay says with little hesitation that this her most challenging.
And it’s not just because of pandemic protocol which limited activities in summer camp, forced the Illinois High School Association to move the traditional fall season to spring and the protocol that’s required during the 20 contact days of offseason practice which began Monday.
Clay is a teacher, too.
“It’s because of the prep work with teaching for e-learning,” said the physical education and dance teacher.
“I have 40 emails right now and that’s what happens every day.
“They have to work out on their own and have a journal to record what they’ve done.”
Then, there’s the volleyball.
The Silver Streaks held their usual summer camp starting in mid-June but it wasn’t like anything they’d ever done before.
For one, although over 60 players participated, due to protocol, only 50 could show up in the gym at a time.
For three weeks, players couldn’t touch a ball so instead they focused on conditioning.
“We had one day where I had to have a mask on, but they didn’t,” she said.
“We sanitized everything. We did a drill, we sanitized.
“It went at a slow pace because we were busy cleaning.”
With seven of the Streaks volleyball athletes playing other fall sports, Clay has been working with 42 players who showed up for offseason workouts Monday and will continue through Oct. 31.
“We have our face masks on, we take their temperatures and we go through protocol,” said Clay.
“The biggest difference is now you can scrimmage.
“Before when we scrimmaged you couldn’t have blockers. You couldn’t have hitters and blockers at the net.
“Now, we can but with masks and we sanitize in between.”
That includes spraying down the nets afterwards.
Clay said her players will cut back their three-times a week routine to two once girls basketball contact days start next week.
With baseball considering a move inside due to the weather, the GHS field house is getting to be a busy place.
“It’s a big sharing atmosphere,” said Clay. “But it’s good to see the kids.”
Once the contact period ends, the Silver Streaks won’t return to practice until Feb. 15 and will play matches in March and April.
“I think the girls were real disappointed when they didn’t play in the fall,” said Clay. “But I said, ‘At least we’ll still have a shot.’
“I feel badly for the seniors.
“But safety comes first with the kids, I don’t have any qualms about that. It’s just hard to know what’s right.
“But at the same time the kids need a routine and need to keep busy.
“I can’t believe how good the kids have been,” she continued. “They want to be here, badly.”
Mike Trueblood is the former longtime sports editor for The Register-Mail. You can email him at [email protected]