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Picayune softball making the most of the situation

Picayune’s Lady Maroon Tide softball team is ready to get back to work now that athletic activities are allowed to resume.

That rolling back of restrictions by the Mississippi High School Activities Association went into effect as of June 1.

Picayune lost the majority of this past season after the MHSAA made the decision to cancel spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That decision was made in mid-March and since then the team hasn’t been allowed to have any type of organized activity.

Due to the long lay off, Head Coach Kristi Mitchell said the MHSAA’s decision to implement a 14-day acclimation period to ease players back into athletics was a smart decision for a variety of reasons.

“We’re making sure the student athletes are not only accustomed to the heat, but also the exercise level. It’s going to take us a little while to get the kids back (in shape),” Mitchell said.

Athletes are now finally able to workout with their teammates as a team, but there are still some caveats.

Proper sanitation and social distancing practices will be enforced to go along with the slow reintroduction of athletes into their sport.

“We’re all trying to follow all the safety precautions we can to get the kids back in the groove of things. Although some have (been staying in shape), we’d assume most have not,” Mitchell said.

A big part of the slow reentry process for Mitchell’s athletes will be arm conditioning.

It’s imperative that arm strength is built back up to pre-pandemic levels prior to any full speed drills taking place in order to prevent injury.

“The first week there won’t be a lot of that, but for the second week of acclimation we might start allowing balls to be thrown to get arms in shape. I’m definitely not throwing them out there without getting their arms back,” Mitchell said.

As a coach, Mitchell understands the role she has in ensuring her athletes’ health.

Under normal circumstances that would mean proper conditioning and training techniques to guarantee her players are in shape for game day, but in the midst of a pandemic being a coach means shouldering even more pressure as the desire to restart athletics mixes with the threats presented by COVID-19.

“It’s ultimately my responsibility as a coach to make sure they’re in the right condition to do things,” Mitchell said.

In the past the softball program would take the month of July off to give players a little bit of a break before school started back up.

However, with athletes having spent months off the field, Mitchell is aware of the possibility that a shorter break may be necessary to make sure her players are getting all the reps they need before the start of the 2020-2021 season.

“Any time you are out for an extended period of time, especially for skill specific sports, it’s going to change kids and they’ll have to have that time to get that repetition back underneath them,” Mitchell said.