NEW ALBANY - The decision on Thursday reached by the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) has been met with open arms by local Gazette coverage coaches. 

Beginning June 1, teams may resume activity with certain restrictions and safeguards in place which are there for the protection and safety of each individual. 

Four Union County coaches responded with how they plan to work in the days to come and what steps they will take to follow the mandated guidelines. 

State champs and Ashley get back at it

Ingomar boys basketball coach Jonathan Ashley is ready to get his defending state champions back on the hardwood for summer practice. 

"We are glad to get back, all of our players have been ready to get back at it," Ashley said. "I've had them wanting to get back to it for six weeks. We will be glad to get back and see these guys."

Ashley's Falcons have been busy during their stay at home and he thinks that they will not be too far behind in their conditioning regimen. 

"A lot of our guys have been working on their own and pushing themselves," he said. "That's great because they are not gonna be starting from zero." 

This summer will be much different for Ingomar and the other basketball teams since there will be no competition against other schools. Teams may have intra-squad scrimmages however.

"Those playing days have always helped will be missed," Ashley said. "We are just thankful we can start back lifting, conditioning and practicing."

Lott ready to meet and work with Urchins

Todd Lott was recently named head coach at East Union and he is more than ready to meet his players face-to-face and begin to work with them. 

"I am especially excited to begin working with our team," Lott said. "Because of the obvious circumstances, I have been unable to meet many of our players. Really excited to begin implementing our system, philosophies, etc."

Lott shared how he hopes to approach conditioning and work for his new team in the month to come. 

"I’m sure we will be similar to the majority of the programs across the state," he said. "We will use common sense and closely monitor all of our kids. We will constantly evaluate our conditioning level and make adjustments as necessary."

East Union football plans to constantly monitor their athletes regarding their health and safety according to Lott. 

"In regards to Covid-19 safety, we will abide by the guidelines laid out by our district and the MHSAA," Lott said. "I’m positive that group size, hand washing/sanitizer, disinfecting between groups, taking temperatures, posting COVID-19 symptoms, etc, will all play a major part in keeping our players safe. We will have a solid plan in place, our player’s safety is our number one priority."  

Smithey ready to huddle with Hawks

Myrtle head football coach Jeremy Smithey is ready to huddle up with his Hawks and restart conditioning and workouts in June.

"I am very excited to get our kids back with us," Smithey said. "We’ve missed them over the past few months. Virtual meetings just aren’t the same as seeing them in person."

Myrtle will follow the same gradual re-orientation as the other teams and sports for the first two weeks back. Athletes can only participate in one practice per day and that practice will not exceed two hours. Also, levels of intensity will be reduced to 50 percent during the first seven days and may only increase to 75 percent during days 8-14. The hopes are that athletes can reach full intensity level by day 14. 

"This summer is going to be a lot different than others," Smithey said. "We’ll adjust our training to meet our kids at their current conditioning level and then follow a carefully constructed program to get them to the level we need them to be."

Finally, Smithey and his staff plan to closely adhere to the policies and guidelines for player safety that have been passed down to them. 

"We’re going to follow guidelines established by both the MHSAA and the NFHS regarding athlete’s safety," he said. "Each athlete will have to be screened before they work out every day. The school district is doing an excellent job providing the materials we need to keep our facilities sanitary and safe for our athletes.

"The district office has helped to provide guidance in building plans to best meet the safety and needs of our students."

Hayles happy to restart the process 

West Union girls basketball coach J.C. Hayles is ready to get the process started for his Lady Eagles on June 1. 

"Getting back and seeing everyone is going to be the best thing about this process," Hayles said. "We all know that this is a different atmosphere than what we are accustomed to, but just getting back, spending time with each other, and being as close to normal as what we can is going to be huge at this point."

Hayles is cautiously optimistic that his team will have trained some of their own during the downtime, but knows they will have some work in front of them to get back where they normally would be at this point. 

"We would all like to think that our players and all athletes are going to come back with having done things during this time to stay in shape, but that is not realistic," he said. "Coming back and getting conditioned and acclimated after not being in a normal routine for over couple of months will take some time. Some will be at different places than others. But safety of the kids is the most important."

Like the other coaches, Hayles will work stringently within the guidelines to keep players safe and attempt to keep facilities and equipment disinfected. 

"MHSAA has put out the guidelines for a 14 day acclimation period where practices and workouts should be at 50% intensity and then gradually increased after that, along with several other guidelines," Hayles said. "The district has also met and discussed things that we will be doing such as taking temperature of athletes before practice, cleaning products and hand sanitizer being readily available, bringing in athletes in small groups and then sanitizing equipment and facilities with the use of disinfectants and foggers.

"Our district has done a great job. While being very eager to get our kids back and going, our coaches and administrators have always had the safety of our kids as priority."

Stubblefield ready to turn the Dogs loose

Coach Cody Stubblefield is looking forward to getting his Bulldogs back in action in the weight room and in outdoor activities for necessary for conditioning.

"We are extremely excited to start in June and getting to see our players again," Stubblefield said. "The New Albany School District is in the process of working on a plan that will keep our players safe. I've been in meetings for most of the day as we review guidelines from the MHSAA, governor's office and the CDC."

Safety is job number one for the Bulldogs according to Stubblefield as he and his staff take every necessary precaution to practice in a safe environment. 

"We have two goals that we are determined provide for our student-athletes," he said. Our first and highest priority is the safety, health and welfare of our players at our workouts and practices. Secondly, we want to safely return our student-athletes and coaches back to the athletic community."

Both New Albany and the Union County Schools will be updating any and all guidelines that might possibly come from the MHSAA, Mississippi State Department of Health, Governor Tate Reeves and the CDC. This will be on ongoing process for the weeks to come. 

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