Your Knights are back in action! With a renewed sense of grit and determination, student athletes and the coaches who lead them are taking the court, the course, the field and the pool. Middle and Upper School sports fans are ecstatic that fall sports are underway, and your Knights have certainly started strong. The volleyball team defeated Baton Rouge High in their first game back on the court and the cross country squad broke records last weekend at the West Feliciana Relays. In Middle School, the football, softball, swimming, and cross country teams have begun practice in anticipation of a great season. A return to competition enhances the student experience and makes life in Middle and Upper School a little more of what we have come to expect from our experience here at Episcopal.
Athletic Director Randy Richard says the logistics required to get student athletes back in the game have not been easy, but they have certainly been worth it. “What’s important for us is that our student athletes get a chance to play in a safe environment,” he says. “The reason we’re doing it is because this is our mission in life.” Richard points to the value of sports and the lessons athletes learn that can’t be learned anywhere else. To provide athletes this experience, the coaching team has had to be more creative to work within the confines of the health and safety protocols. There have been challenges, but the coaches have rallied together behind one goal. “We encourage each other so that we’re geared up and ready to go to have a plan in place to serve our students,” says Richard.
That service to students has included tremendous planning. For example, as students participated in summer strength and conditioning, coaches had to increase the two daily workouts/three days a week to three and four daily workouts/five days a week in order to reduce the number of students in the weight room at any given time. In cross country, runners had to be organized into pods so that students wouldn’t bundle together as they trained. More pods required the development of additional running routes and increased monitoring of individual times. Football practice strategies had to be adjusted with some players lifting weights while others ran drills to reduce the exposure risk of an entire squad. Between each drill everything is cleaned, including equipment and footballs. Throughout the adjustments, Richard says the student athletes have stepped up and shown a true commitment to their teams and a desire to compete this season.
As teams begin competing, there are even more details to consider, all the way down to the water that athletes drink. Richard says while they’ve taken water for granted in the past, coaches must now make sure that each athlete brings enough to sustain themselves throughout an entire practice and competition. Coaches also have to consider where athletes not in the game will sit/stand until their number is called and, in some cases, what is essentially a travel squad must be established due to capacity limitations within gyms. Even the traditional handshake or high five among opponents has had to be reworked this season. Fortunately, the Knights volleyball team has already found a way to acknowledge their opponent by waving to them from across the net. As the team took the court for their first game, Head Coach Madeline Gugich was thrilled. “Seeing them compete puts a smile on all of our faces,” she says. “The excitement of this helps us to play our best. It was an awesome game.”
There also remains a question of fan attendance. Richard reminds everyone that it is important to understand that all suggested attendance numbers include members of the team, coaches, game officials and those determined to be essential game personnel. Once essential game attendees are tallied, the fan attendance numbers are significantly lower than the numbers suggest. However, Richard and his team have devised a creative solution to allow the Knights’ fanbase to show their support. The Episcopal volleyball games are aired live and on delay on YurView LA (Cox Channel 4) and CST (Cox Channel 37). Richard says many of the team parents sponsored the broadcasts to support their student athletes, and he is optimistic that a similar arrangement can be made for other sports. Thank you parents!!
The Episcopal coaches are eager to return to competition. “We are excited to be able to compete because practicing all the time gets boring,” says Head Cross Country Coach Claney Duplechin. “We need to know the reason for practicing. This reason is competing against other schools and individuals. It is fun to compare our skills with others.” Middle and Upper School Softball Coach Heidi Hebert says seeing the students’ excitement and motivation to prepare is just one of the many reasons to love coaching. “It has been a real eye opener to see the things we take for granted such as everyday life including practices and games,” she says. “As we count down the days to our first competitions, it’s exciting to have those normal, game day jitters.” Head Football Coach Travis Bourgeois says playing football in the fall gives players positive energy. “With 18 seniors, these guys have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over the years,” he says. “They deserve to play their senior year. Football is a great way to kick off the school year and bring our community together.”
Richard feels the commitment shown by the coaching staff will inspire the student athletes. “I hope they understand the magnitude of what coaches have done to get them back in action,” he says. With that understanding, Richard hopes the athletes, under the guidance of the seniors, can continue to come together to do the right thing and stay on track to continue a successful season. While this season is certainly different from the past, Richard is confident the Knights will get the job done. “In May, I’ll look back and be overwhelmed with the resiliency of our staff and student athletes to make what could have been a terrible year a success.”
Resilience. Determination. Commitment. These are all key qualities you might expect of a Knight. Expect them to be on full display as the students compete once again. To keep track of upcoming sports events, click here to see the Episcopal athletic schedule.
Share words of encouragement for your Episcopal Knights in the comments section below. Go Knights!