Students, coaches excited about starting practice

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jasper's Isaac Day runs a drill during the football team's first no-contact practice of the season at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper on Monday.


There was excitement all around as Dubois County high school teams returned to practice Monday for the first time in months. There have been no official team activities since sports shut down in March, and everyone was eager to see their friends and coaches, and get back to the games they love. It was also clear that things will be different for the foreseeable future.

Active teams included football, volleyball and cross country, and they all have new rules and procedures they need to follow as they operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Screening for symptoms and added equipment sanitation are just a few of the procedures that are part of the new normal.

“We started with the policies, procedures and what to expect for the month of July,” said Southridge volleyball coach Mande Keusch, whose team will be meeting twice a week. “We have to ask them questions like have you been exposed to anybody with [COVID-19], or do you have a cough or a fever? We have to check them off every time. They have to be cleared to come here, and have all their forms filled out. We try to keep them separated as much as you can before practice. We split them up into two different entrances so everyone isn’t congregating in one spot. We have to sanitize all our equipment before and after our practices.”

“We have the students check their temperature before practice. They have to report that as soon as they get there,” added Jasper assistant cross country coach Adam Gilbert. “Every day, we’re going to go over the symptoms that we need to be watching out for. We’re reinforcing that if any of those symptoms are present, you need to stay away [from practice] for now. That’s going to be something we talk through every morning.”

The Jasper High School football team gathers to warm up at their first practice of the season at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper on Monday.

Forest Park football coach Ross Fuhs turned Monday’s team meeting into an information session going over paperwork and other procedures with the players, though they did some walkthroughs toward the end. But the excitement of meeting again in a group setting was heavy amongst everyone there.

“That was the first thing we said when we started,” said Fuhs, who plans on practicing three times a week and will split players into groups that will cycle between weightlifting and light drills/walkthroughs. “A bunch of the players said that too. They were excited to be back and together again. All the coaches agreed, it felt somewhat normal.”

Northeast Dubois cross country coach Ben Gessner had a small group come out for some evening running, but he enjoyed catching up with everybody and starting the process of building up their mileage for the fall.

“The kids really seemed to enjoy it,” he said. “They were pretty excited to be here. We went out for a mid-distance run. I didn’t want to work them too hard and scare them off from conditioning.”

Heritage Hills football coach Todd Wilkerson said he was up at the school at 5 a.m. to get everything ready for the Patriots’ practice. He and the coaching staff had been meeting virtually with the players since June sharing workouts and going over team concepts. He said it was a bit hectic at the beginning, but it felt like old times once the kids took to the field.

Jasper's Joey McGimpsey, center, and Grant Young, right, throw during a drill at the football team’s first practice of the season at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper on Monday.

“Today was about getting them moving and trying to assess what kind of shape they’re in,” said Wilkerson, who’s weekly schedule consists of one practice day and three days of strength and conditioning. “It’s always good to get around the kids again, and once they realized we weren’t going to run their butts off the first day back they were pretty happy.”

Jasper football coach Tony Lewis said it was good to get the team back into a routine. Lewis will be splitting the Wildcats’ weekly schedule into two days of practice and two days of strength and conditioning, and he thinks that giving players a regimen is good for the community.

“Anytime kids get out of a routine, sometimes that can be when kids don’t do what they’re supposed to be doing,” Lewis said. “If we can get our kids back into the routine of football and getting them tired out when they get home, I think that’ll be good for our kids.”

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