Lakers Softball

First year Coach Kelsey Anderson (far right) gathers with members of her team before taking the polar plunge in Prior Lake back in February. 

The Prior Lake softball team was supposed to open the season April 5 at Shakopee, which would been the debut of Lakers' first-year Coach Kelsey Anderson.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on all spring sports: no practices or team meetings, and the school's facilities are closed until May 4.

So how is Anderson getting to know her team? She's at even more of a disadvantage having come over from Wayzata, where she was the head coach of the Trojans the previous three seasons.

"It has been hard, as we only had gotten through tryouts before we got the news from the Minnesota State High School League," Anderson said, a 2011 Burnsville graduate who was named Ms. Softball following her senior year.

"Being a new coach, the girls do not know the drills I like to use or even what I want them to focus on, so on that aspect it’s been a little difficult," she said. "But during this time we are all learning and adjusting the best we can."

Say hello to virtual training. That's how Anderson is connecting with her team, along with many other coaches from high school down to the youth levels.

According to the Aspen Institute's Project Play, "virtual training has emerged as a go-to mechanism for leagues, coaches and parents to keep kids engaged in sport activities. Youth training apps have experienced major increases in usage over the past two weeks."

HomeCourt is a basketball app that uses cameras to analyze athlete performance. In March, it was ranked No. 1 on Apple’s free sports apps, according to Project Play.

During the week of March 16, Home Court tracked 2 million dribbles a day in 180 countries, according to Alex Wu, HomeCourt vice president of strategy and partnerships.

"What we’ve seen are a lot of parents trying to find (physical education) and recess periods for kids while doing remote learning," Wu told Project Play. "We also have a lot of coaches and clients who can’t physically be together, so everybody is looking for different ways to stay connected."

Anderson has used GroupMe to connect with her team, attaching workout videos and drills she likes to use.

"We will start using Zoom to video chat with the girls and just connect as teams," Anderson said. "We will also be doing some challenges to help the connections and help build relationships.

"We will also be connecting with each individual athlete if they would like to chat and help individualize workouts or help support them during this strange time," Anderson added. "Finally, during these meetings, I can clarify any questions or make any adjustments to help the girls continue to train."

But what if there's no spring sports? What if the MSHSL is forced to cancel the season? That's certainly a strong possibility at this point. 

It's likely summer club teams will see a rise in participation. Anderson is also a 13U coach for Midwest Speed, a Twin Cities club softball program.

"Summer ball I believe will be very much appreciated and welcomed this year," Anderson said. "Players will appreciate their coaches more, coaches will appreciate their players more. Umpire and coaches relationships will hopefully be more respectful.

"I even got a text from one of my players for summer ball saying that she is realizing how much she has taken for granted the coaches she has had and she hopes she isn’t the only one who is realizing this right now," Anderson added.

"I know that everyone is just missing the personal connections they made daily, and I just hope our world is kinder and more appreciative when things go back to normal."

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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