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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith talks to her team during a timeout.

Many volleyball players can’t typically work with their teams until the summer due to competing in spring sports, so coaches have adjusted to that during the offseason. Teams work in small groups and get as much work done as they can in the weight room without having the full team before tryouts and putting together a full roster before the summer begins.

However, this year is bringing some extra challenges as coaches can’t spend any time with players during the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic and many tryouts have already been postponed.

“It’s been very difficult because everything is up in the air,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “I’m trying to keep the girls staying focused but we haven’t even had tryouts yet. We have to figure out how to jump back in the saddle when we have the go ahead. Logistically, I feel a little lost.”

Smith said she has been sending her returning players some workouts and she hopes they are doing them from home but it can be tough to make sure they are doing everything they need.

“It adds a lot of anxiety to the kids,” Smith said. “A lot of these students athletes love the sport. A lot of them play club ball but they are worried about how will this affect their stats and recruiting. You just try to keep them motivated and dialed in as much as possible.”

Wetumpka had just one senior last year so Smith was fortunate because she has an idea of what her team will look like in the fall but that does not make it any easier without this important evaluation period. However, some teams are facing an even bigger uphill climb.

Elmore County graduated five seniors and Panthers coach Kim Moncrief said the spring was going to be crucial to see who could fill those roles this season.

 “It’s going to be difficult,” Moncrief said. “I know we have a good number of girls that are coming up from the eighth grade that want to tryout. I know not having this evaluation time is going to be difficult. When you have that tryout period, you can start to see what you can develop over the summer.”

After Moncrief dropped softball from her coaching duties, she expected to dedicate her time to volleyball year-round and this was going to be her first spring spent exclusively with the volleyball program. She got started with some of the players, working some 3-on-1 drills but that time was cut short.

“One of the things I wanted to do was give more to that program in the spring so that does kind of make it more difficult,” Moncrief said. “We had a few weeks behind us and we were excited about it. This was disappointing because it’s good to have those small group workouts.”

Even with players being stuck at home, coaches have plenty of things to keep their players busy while preparing for the new season.

“I send them basic workouts,” Smith said. “You can do plyometrics or work on your hitting form around the house. You can’t make them do anything. It goes toward them having internal motivation to get it done. I get them to log it and hope they’re being honest. If you’re not doing these things though, it’s going to show up when we get back on the court.”

Wetumpka had a UAB camp in July canceled and now, like many teams, it is scrambling for other options without knowing if any will be available once the summer arrives. 

However, whether it’s going to a camp on a college campus or just meeting as a team to get some work in, coaches are confident their players will be focused and full of energy once everyone returns to the court.

“Sometimes being away for a couple of months, they can be very interested when they come back,” Moncrief said. “They are sending messages to me and saying they want to play and can’t wait to be back. The desire is there even with some of the newer girls. I think everyone is going to be even more excited about it because of this gap.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.