As Galveston County high school athletic programs began summer workouts Monday, the COVID-19 pandemic-related social distancing and sanitation precautions added a new wrinkle to the process.
Add a new head football coach hired in February and coaching staff added after that, and it was an entirely new landscape as the Ball High Tors got their summer program underway Monday morning.
“Because this thing happened so quickly after I came in, the lack of accessibility I’ve had with these kids and to still get the turnout that we did is wonderful,” Tors head football coach Sheldon Bennight said. “And it’s only going to get better from here.”
Bennight, a former North Shore assistant coach, waited 25 years for his first head football coaching opportunity, and while this may not be how he envisioned it would start, he said he’s embracing the challenge.
“We’ve got to spin it to a positive; if we can work our way through this, then I think we can work our way through anything,” Bennight said. “The kids have been nothing but great, and these coaches are eager. I think that’s going to bode well for us.”
While separated from his players for about three months because of the pandemic, Bennight has been able to send them at-home workout plans and has been in contact with them. But, the players were eager to get back to working out together — albeit socially distanced — as a group, Bennight said.
“I want to see the kids follow the rules and the protocols that the UIL has laid out,” Bennight said. “We’re going to hold them accountable, starting right now. We also want to get them some conditioning and get them slowly acclimated to the heat. I know they want to work, but safety is our first concern. We’re going to start slowly introducing the offense and defense to them. We’re mainly making sure they’re doing the things they’re asked to do and respect the process.”
Galveston ISD athletic director Walter Fortune said about 50 student-athletes participated in Ball High’s skills and conditioning exercises Monday morning, while about 10 had to be turned away at the entrance for not bringing their own water jugs — one of the requirements to participate in summer workouts, along with bringing their own towels, working out 10 feet apart and other measures.
The group was also limited to incoming 10th, 11th and 12th graders, with eighth and ninth graders not joining the workouts until next week, Fortune said.
In addition to Bennight, other new faces for Ball High football in the 2020 season will be offensive coordinator David Morgan, who comes over from Clear Creek; defensive coordinator Troy Aduddell, a longtime former Clear Lake head coach; secondary coach Jason Harris, who comes over from Santa Fe; offensive line and strength coach Ben Kaufman, who has had stints at Clear Lake, Alvin and Fort Bend Marshall; and freshmen coach Jacob Daehnke, who previously coached at Baytown Lee and Aldine MacArthur.