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PLYMOUTH – Area teams continue to deal with the shadow of COVID-19 and Plymouth’s Lady Pilgrims have been exceptionally hard hit by the precautions surrounding the pandemic.
The team could likely argue that they may have been hit harder than anybody.
Plymouth was scheduled to play arch-rival Warsaw on Friday and be back on the court last night against local rival Glenn. Both were wiped out by COVID close contact issues. It’s the second time that Plymouth’s varsity has lost two weeks, the JV was in quarantine after their very first game of the season and had just gotten back to the floor when the second wave hit.
“I can’t apologize enough to our parents and kids,” said Plymouth coach Dave Duncan. “It’s affected our team probably as much or more as anybody around the area.
I feel bad for our varsity kids because they aren’t getting anybody to practice against. I feel bad for our younger kids that aren’t getting any repetition it’s been a tough year so far.”
While the constant start and stop of the season has dealt a blow to staying sharp as a varsity, the blow to the younger developing players is even greater. Coaches are fond of talking about ‘attention to the basics’ and that attention happens at the JV and freshman levels. Learning to play instinctually rather than mechanically is the bottom line of a player’s ability to compete at the varsity level.
“The way it stands right now they are going to lose almost their whole season,” said Duncan of his JV’s lost time. “In terms of repetition. You think going into the season you are going to see some kids grow pretty fast at the younger level. We just haven’t had the opportunity to get them in the gym and get the work in as a group and individually.”
“We’ll get them back here pretty soon and try to get them in shape here and try to get them a few games here,” he said. “But they’ve lost out on a lot of reps so far.
That lost time will have repercussions throughout an entire program, not just on the current season, but the following one as well.
“Traditionally we’ve taken a kid or two and give them a few minutes on the varsity floor. They aren’t even getting that this year,” said Duncan. “In the past, we have had kids that could practice with the varsity kids and that’s how I think you get better quicker. We won’t have an opportunity to do any of that at all. The growth and confidence they get from playing with the varsity kids – they aren’t getting any of that this year.”
Coaches around the state this season are having to adjust to having an “off-season” in the middle of their regular season. Plymouth is dealing with two of them. With only six to eight players in the program that are cleared to be on the floor, practice becomes an issue.
“There are days that you are working on player development more, trying to get shots up, as far as the five on five stuff, you don’t get a lot of that now,” said Duncan. “We do quite a bit of five on five. Probably a third of our practice is five on five, It’s about getting a feel for each other on the floor.”
“(Plymouth point guard) Lindsay (Janus) will be out a few games here,” he said. “We are trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle and developing the five, six or seven kids we’re going to play together and then they have to get used to each other and they won’t have that five on five to do that.”
Part of the five on five drills revolve around the development of a team’s chemistry on the court.
“Sometimes you move a few kids out of a class up to the varsity and it just seems that those kids have a feel for each other, they know where the other is going to be,” said Duncan. “I feel like Kaylee (Dragani) and Taylor (Delp) have that feel for each other this year and now we are going to miss that repetition.”
That chemistry pays big dividends in adjusting during a game.
“They have that feel and the confidence to go back on the defensive side and have the confidence to talk to each other about ‘hey, I think I’m going to be open next time down, look for me'”, Duncan said.
In spite of the difficulty, Duncan’s team is approaching it like any other challenge.
“We will just have to keep plugging away and try to get better,” he said. “We will get better with who we have in the gym.”