Winter coaches putting together a plan

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s winter sports teams are planning to begin practicing later this month. That’s good news for athletes like gymnast Lucy Hellenbrand./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

There are no guarantees of competitions this winter.

No promises of scrimmages, games or postseasons.

When winter sports begin later this month, though, Middleton High School will give its teams the chance to practice.

Oh, things will look dramatically different than they have in the past. But the Cardinals’ various teams will do everything possible to prepare for a season they hope will come in time.

“Right now, we just have no idea what might happen with some of the restrictions inside Dane County,” boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “So, we’ll do what we can and hope that things work out where we can have some type of season.

“All I know is that something is better than nothing. And right now, getting the kids back in the gym is progress.”

Here’s a look at each winter sports, when they’re scheduled to begin and what their “new normal” might look like.



Start Date: Nov. 16

How things will look: Middleton will practice two days a week in groups of 10, or less. The Cardinals will follow Public Health Madison-Dane County, MHS and WIAA guidelines, meaning the players will wear masks, social distance, disinfect all equipment, etc.

Middleton will start with one hour practices that will basically focus on skill work. If things progress in a safe manner, the Cardinals may be able to increase the time and number of practices as the season progresses.

Middleton head coach Jeff Kind also knows things could go the other way.

“Hopefully, we can be diligent and responsible and be competing by second semester,” Kind said. “For now, we’re just grateful to have an opportunity to get together and be active in our sport.”



Start date: Nov. 16

How things will look: Middleton High School has designated Wednesdays as a deep cleaning day. So the gymnasts will practice on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Gymnasts will sanitize after every turn, practice with masks on, mark out social distancing placeholders on the gym floor, and take temperature and self-checks prior to entering the gym.

“We're striving to still create the family atmosphere we work so hard to do every year,” Middleton coach Kari Steck said. “However this year it will be one with air high fives and no hugs.”

Steck, who has increased participation throughout her 11 years on the job, is also hoping she won’t have to make cuts this season.

“Right now, we're figuring out how to make the 10 athletes in a space at a time restriction work,” Steck said. “We've worked so hard to build the program to where it is now, and have never made cuts. When I started 11 years ago we had seven girls out for the team. We now consistently have 25-plus.

“I'm hoping that we can make multiple cohorts work, so we do not have to make cuts. We know the importance athletics play in mental health, and that's needed now more than ever. Our first priority is keeping the student athletes safe, and we will do everything we can to do so.”



Start date: Nov. 16

How things will look: Players will be subject to temperature checks when they enter Capitol Ice Arena and the indoor mask requirement will be enforced until players step on the ice.

Players will be spread out in the locker room, and the ice will be split in half with no more than 10 skaters per side.

Capitol Ice Arena also has a COVID plan that’s been enforced all summer and fall that MHS athletes must adhere to.

“Lots of things will be different,” Middleton first year coach Dan Truehl said. “Obviously by splitting the ice in half we’ll have to be more creative with our drills while still fostering a competitive atmosphere. All of us coaches understand that this isn’t perfect, but we’re thrilled to be able to get back on the ice and we’ll do everything we can to give the boys a great environment in which they can play the game that we all love.”

Truehl is working with the athletic department to determine how many days his team can practice. Truehl said he wants to guard against “burnout”, as Middleton doesn’t have any games scheduled for the time being.

“It would be impossible for me to predict the future, but we’re going to practice as if we’re preparing for a season with games,” Truehl said. “Ultimately safety is our number one goal and the powers that be will determine if and when it’s safe to hold competitions. My promise to the team will be that we’re going to be ready to roll whenever they tell us that we can play games.”



Start date: Nov. 23

How things will look: Like the girls’ team, Middleton’s boys will practice two days a week in groups of 10, or less. The Cardinals will wear masks, socially distance themselves, disinfect all equipment and spend most of their time on skill work.

Middleton coach Kevin Bavery is optimistic his team will be able to play games at some point. For now, he’s thrilled to start working with a group that he hasn’t seen much of since last March.

“We’re hopeful to be able to create a full schedule at some point,” Bavery said. “If that doesn’t look likely, at some point we’ll explore all options through the WIAA and our school district.

“We’re not going to look for ways to work around the rules or guidelines, as this is a serious issue of health for everyone. We’re grateful for the opportunities we have in front of us now, so our only focus is to give the kids the joy of being back in the gym together and give them the best prep we can.”



Start date: Nov. 23

How things will look: Middleton will have eight swimmers practicing at a time (one per lane). The group will arrive, drop their gear on the deck, wear a mask to their lane, swim for approximately 70 minutes, then hop out and leave before the next group arrives.

Once each day, a group of four divers will also practice.

Due to the Cardinals’ large roster, each swimmer will likely practice three times each week. There will be six groups staggered on an every other day basis.

“The silver lining is we will have a lot of 1-on-1 coaching with the guys and can really focus on some quality speed work,” Middleton coach Dan Lynamn said.

Lynam is also optimistic his group might have virtual competitions in the near future.

“The conversation has started with Verona, Sun Prairie, and possibly Beloit on how we could engage in some sort of virtual competition,” Lynam said. “The benefit to swimming is that we don't need to share a physical presence to race, just the ability to compare times.”



Start Date: Nov. 23

How things will look: Middleton coach Kent Weiler is developing a plan that will include skills and drill work that adhere to the same guidance of social distancing and no contact. Weiler will be using the indoor facility at MHS, and is also developing cohorted groupings that he and his assistant will be working with.

Wrestling is considered a “high-risk” sport by the WIAA. So if Middleton is able to proceed with competitions at some point, they can only be dual meets and there must be a minimum of six days between each contest.

Wrestlers and coaches would also be required to mask up during contests, including during competition, as per the governor’s mandate.


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