By John R. Schirmer
Things were a little different Monday morning as the Nashville Scrappers reported to Scrapper Stadium for the first day of “limited summer activities” under guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Activities Association.
This was their first meeting since the nationwide coronavirus pandemic began.
Upon arrival, players went straight to the stadium entrance where they were greeted by mask-wearing coaches who asked a series of health questions required by the AAA.
Coaches also took their temperatures and recorded them on forms provided by the AAA.
There were no helmets, no team meetings before practice.
Instead, players went to the field after the health screenings, where they were lined up five yards apart going north-south and 12 feet apart going east-west, in compliance with ADH and AAA guidelines.
There was no need to ask how long the session would last. That was already determined by the AAA – one hour from the time it began a few minutes after 8.
From there, Coach Mike Volarvich and his assistants put the players through a series of activities under AAA “acclimatization” guidelines.
Overall, Monday was “really good,” Volarvich said. “It was great to get back out there and see the guys” after 2 1/2 months. “When you’re dealing with 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds, it’s amazing how much some of them change. I saw a lot of growth.”
The last time the Scrappers were together was Friday, March 13, before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in Arkansas and the rest of the nation
for the remainder of the academic year.
Coaches contacted the players through text messages and other means, but Monday morning was their first time back on the field.
There were some new coaches to greet them, including T.J. Langley and Wade Matlock. Langley joins the program from the high school and college ranks in Oklahoma. Matlock returned to Nashville after a couple of years in Arkadelphia.
“The coaches had a chance to get here and get introduced to the players,” Volarvich said.
Returning coaches included Volarvich, Jimi Easterling and Brian Bearden. Another familiar face, Brian “Boomer” Brown will be back later this week.
Volarvich said 58 players reported Monday morning. “I’m excited about that on Day 1 in the middle of a pandemic. I didn’t know if we’d have 25 or 65.”
Two or three are out of town, Volarvich said, and will return shortly. There were a few whose families “didn’t feel comfortable yet.” Volarvich didn’t know where a few others were.
Those who were there “had a really good workout. You can tell who’s taken pride in getting in shape the last two months. For the most part, they’re the ones you’re counting on at crunch time,” Volarvich said.
Volarvich used group messaging on weekly basis to guide the players on running. “A lot did it on their own. Others struggled with warm-ups” Monday.
Volarvich looks for improvement as the summer goes on. “I reminded them this morning that it’s not where you start; it’s where you finish,” he said.
“June 1 was a very liberal start date for the governor and the AAA to give us. I thought it would be more toward July, but as I’ve said, I’m not a doctor or a politician,” Volarvich said.
Teams were limited to one hour on Monday and Tuesday. From there, the sessions expand to 90 minutes, then two hours and eventually three hours.
Volarvich said one hour was enough for the first day. “By 20 minutes into it, our guys had put in good work.”
Tuesday’s schedule was similar to Monday. The team will be off Wednesday before returning Thursday. “We’ll have more time Thursday and introduce some new things,” Volarvich said.
Players and coaches observed social distancing throughout the first two days and will continue to do so under state guidelines, Volarvich said. Team members didn’t gather at the end of practice to call it up as they usually did. Instead, Volarvich led them as they raised their arms to shout “Win” before leaving for the day.
“We did some good work today,” Volarvich said. “There will be a bunch of sore bodies tomorrow.”
Additional guidance from the state health department and the AAA will be issued later in June.
Fall camp is tentatively set to open Aug. 3, with the season opener scheduled for Friday, Aug. 28, at home against Pleasant Grove, Texas. All dates are subject to change.