Athletes, Spirit Groups Prep for the Unknown

With guidelines in place, training continues for sports, spirit groups.
By: Todd Martin
While circumstances surrounding COVID-19 swirl, high school athletes and spirit group leaders are calmly adjusting in hopes of competing, performing and representing their schools.
Adopting specific entry procedures, staying apart and wearing masks, students are working hard to get in playing shape and to stay healthy.
With the most recent UIL guidelines and schedules in place, fall athletes are continuing strength and conditioning camps until the start of school, now set in Killeen ISD for Aug. 17 in an all-virtual setting.
Practice for volleyball and football can begin Sept. 7, with volleyball matches as early as Sept. 14 and football games Sept. 24 for 6A schools.
Marching bands began their phased-in rehearsals with drum majors and then other section leaders, but suspended practices until closer to the start of the football season. Guidelines allow marching contest practice to begin Sept. 7.
Dance teams have been practicing much like fall athletes and cheerleaders began workouts this week.
One day this week inside a mostly empty Ellison High School, athletes rotated from drills on the practice field and in the weight room, maintaining 50 percent occupancy while cheerleaders worked out in the school commons area and the Emeralds practiced in the band hall and a hallway.
“We’ve been ansy to get started,” said Ellison cheer sponsor Dinette Dormeus, speaking of her students and herself. “The girls have been on us wanting to go.” The cheerleaders worked out in divided groups with varsity and junior varsity practicing on different days.
Co-captain Kilani Henry, a senior, is in her fourth year on the team and is just grateful to be back in some capacity.
“I enjoy it a lot, being with the team,” she said. “I’m just glad we can get together even though we have to keep our distance. I hope to have a senior year with sports.”
Similarly, Ellison senior Bailey Parker, entering her fourth year on the Emeralds dance team is the colonel, leading a group into the unexpected.
“We’re all really happy to be back,” she said. “We’re happy to be around each other, especially since we’ve been gone since March.”
For the first time in 40 years, Ellison won’t be hosting the annual Spirit Spectacular that features the four marching bands and dance teams the weekend before the first day of school. Spirit groups still plan to compete and to perform when possible.
“It is a slower pace this year,” Parker said, “since the football season is pushed back. We do have more time to get ready.”
“We’re getting ready for whatever season we have,” said Emeralds Director Jennifer Zehr. “This is a good group. They are positive, not complaining even though they have to wear a mask and stay apart.”
In June, fall athletes began their summer strength camps, then paused around the July 4 holiday and started up again with distancing, sanitizing and mask requirements in place.
At Harker Heights High School, Athletic Coordinator Jerry Edwards watched over six groups spread across practice fields and rotating through the weight room.
“I’ve been proud of how these guys don’t let the circumstances they can’t control affect them,” he said.
“We’ve had tremendous numbers since we started June 8 in all sports. They have showed up, adjusted and they haven’t complained about masks, bringing their own water and turning in self-screen sheets every day.”
“We’re planning for the best,” said the Ellison cheer sponsor. “We will have plans even if the season is pushed back more. We want to provide a positive spirit on the campus and in the community.”