Katie Bates

Pine Grove girls coach Katie Bates is ready to get back with her team again.

It’s far from an ideal situation, but Katie Bates is just glad she gets to be with her team again.

“Anything at this point is better than nothing,” said Bates, who has led Pine Grove’s girls to four-straight Class 1A state basketball titles.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association announced on Thursday that high school teams can begin practices and workouts, with restrictions, starting June 1 – the normal start date for the high school sports summer calendar.

All athletic competition and related activities have been suspended since March 16.

June is normally a time for summer league basketball, but competition between schools is prohibited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And that might be just as well, because weight and conditioning work are paramount for athletes after being off for so long.

“We bank a lot on our weight lifting program,” Bates said. “We think that’s been a huge part of our success in the past. We’re really excited that we’re going to get back and not have to miss out this summer on it.”

Workouts will be a more urgent matter for football teams. Spring drills were canceled, and preseason practices are scheduled to start Aug. 3.

The MHSAA said that all summer work is voluntary for athletes, which concerns Okolona football coach Lamart Harvey.

“If the kids don’t show up, you can’t punish them, you can’t cut them,” Harvey said. “Of my 32, I’m probably going to have 20, 22 show up. I’m going to have 10 or 12 that try to beat the system.”

As for the athletes who do show up, coaches have to tweak workouts so as to abide by local and state protocol regarding coronavirus safety measures. Harvey said he will probably break his team down into four groups, with one on the practice field, one on the game field, one in the locker room – doing agility work – and one in the weight room.

There will be a two-week acclimation period for athletes, many of whom haven’t seen the inside of a weight room in more than two months.

New Tupelo football coach Ty Hardin is going to do a lot of outside work.

“It will be conditioning and agility,” he said. “Old school type of training with some new stuff. … We have to prepare their bodies. That’s the main thing. We have to prepare them for what’s about to go on. We have to get them in football shape.”

Hardin was recently hired by Tupelo after four years as Houston’s head coach. He has yet to meet with his new players in person, having to settle for group chats and Zoom meetings.

He also hasn’t had the chance to install his schemes or fill out the coaching staff.

“Time is just a major enemy right now. I still have to hire three coaches, so there are some obstacles for us when getting back started,” Hardin said.

Ingomar’s boys basketball team – the reigning 1A state champion – normally plays several games per summer. Even with that option out the window, coach Jonathan Ashley is excited to rejoin his team.

He said his players have been able to do cardio work at a local gym, so he’s expecting a productive summer.

“We are really excited to get them back in the weight room and get back to conditioning and practice also a little bit,” Ashley said. “I think it’s time.”

Contributing: Dalton Middleton

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