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ALTAMONT — As high school athletic departments hunker down for a spring without athletics, Labette County has jumped head first into setting up online infrastructure to keep its student-athletes engaged and active through the COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“Kids being at home right now, the normal teenager thinks it’s pretty cool to have no school for about two weeks. But then it starts to set in on them,” Labette County Athletic Director and football coach Sean Price said. “It’s not just losing school and sports. These kids still have other issues that they’re going through. So we’re trying to stay in touch with them as much as we can.” 

As part of the school-wide continuous education plan, Labette County has set up virtual classrooms through Google. The athletic department also has its own Google classrooms and coaches are sending workouts through social media.

“As a teacher, we’ve set up Google classrooms with everybody,” Price said. “I’ve also been sending out workouts for two weeks now. For football, we set up a meeting on Google Hangouts. We’ve had those for volleyball and basketball too.” 

Assistant volleyball and girls basketball coach Brianna Volmer, a graduate of Labette County, sent out a YouTube video of a ladder workout as part of an ongoing series that she’ll continue producing.

“It’ll be a better response if the kids see me doing it,” Volmer said. “Some of the videos will be tied to PE and some will be athletics. It’s al be one and the same.”

Heather Wilson, the head volleyball coach and another assistant girls basketball coach at Labette County, feels that being proactive in reaching out to student-athletes is the best way to keep them active.

“There’s kids who will do anything that you want them to do,” Wilson said. “You’ve also got kids that will seek out something to do. The majority, though, will listen to coaching. So we wanted to give them something to think about with no pressure. We’ve had our break, now let’s see what we can do physically.” 

One goal of coaches in keeping student-athletes healthy and fit during the shutdown is to prepare for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whenever that comes and when sports resume.

“If everybody starts picking up camps and workouts after having done nothing,” Wilson said, “we can’t go from zero to a hundred. We’ve got to combat this.” 

Price said he believes most of the student-athletes at Labette County are performing the workouts sent out at least to some degree.

“I’m getting videos sent to me of them doing them,” Price said. “Our kids have a group on Snapchat that they’ve communicated with their teammates on.” 

While enforcing participation is nearly impossible and not expected by the Labette County coaching staff as a whole, Volmer said she’s encouraging all her athletes to make attempts to stick to the plan.

“The first couple of weeks, they were on break mode,” Volmer said. “We’re not expecting all of our kids to do all of our workouts. But we had kids reach out, so we want the kids to just try some of them.” 

Ultimately, schools around the area are doing their best to provide structure and stability to student-athletes who are dealing with the trauma of lost seasons and lost time with coaches. Virtual workouts, film study and interaction are proving to be part of that formula. 

“I just think it’s important for socialization,” Volmer said. “These kids’ seasons got ripped out from underneath them, so they need purpose for what they’re doing. It helps with morale and keeping them on the same page.” 

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