KEEP POUNDING

The first week of prep sports is in the books, and man is it weird.

Everything looks great on paper – social distancing, wearing masks, substitutions for unnecessary contact and vigilant sanitization – but it’s hard to know exactly what that will look like until you get there.

Take volleyball, for instance. Even the coaches weren’t sure exactly how they were going to line up the spaced-out chairs or what the post-game high-fives were going to look like until the first regular season match.

Personally, I’m a huge proponent of the health and safety measures being implemented right now, but it doesn’t make the whole scene any less bizarre.

I live in eastern North Carolina, and depending on which town you live in and which stores you visit, it could be very easy to forget there’s a pandemic on. Everyone knows which grocery stores, which gas stations, which businesses don’t care about the masks. It’s just the way it is.

Places in close relation to the federal government, though, such as schools and banks, employ strict standards, and they are enforced by the staff. I haven’t stepped foot on a high school campus since March, so I wasn’t expecting the health-conscious scenes at the matches this week. It was very, very different. It was welcome, but different.

The changes at the schools aren’t limited to the masks on fans and the social distancing, though. It’s the unexpected little things, like the fact that limited capacity makes the gyms really quiet, so coaches are forced to whisper during timeout huddles. It’s a little funny and a little eerie.

Speaking of huddles, it’s hard not to lift a brow at huddles, which obviously throws social distancing out the window. My opinion? Social distancing is virtually impossible in sports, so I find it odd when it’s enforced at all in certain areas. What’s the point, I ask myself. Why bother with it when sports require bodies to get close and often collide.

I tried to take a step back on Thursday, though, and look at social distancing in sports like injury prevention. Like using non-contact drills in football, coaches do what they can to minimize injuries, even if it limits their players. Keeping players masked and socially distanced during stand-around times makes sense when it can’t be enforced during live play.

On the surface, prep sports don’t look the same. But I saw the same spikes, the same dives, the same digs and the same athleticism in the two matches I covered this past week. The sports we love is in there, and this unpopular, uncomfortable situation allows players to play them. I’m OK with that, weirdness and all.

(Send comments or questions to zack@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)

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