Basketball team’s preseason preparations during COVID


Joseph Scott

Senior Joseph Scott leaps to shoot a running layup in a game.

William Palmer

According to Atlanta Public Schools policy, preseason workouts are not allowed to out of season teams. For the basketball team, this means that they won’t get their usual chance to hold workouts before the official season begins. In past seasons, these hours in the gym have been critical to the development of the team in preparation for the season.

“Our first GHSA date for practice is Oct. 26, so that’s when our tryouts will start, and we’ll continue tryouts through that Friday, and we’ll have rosters by the end of that week,” head boys basketball coach Patrick Johnson said. “The boys have a scrimmage on [Nov.] 17th, and our first game for boys and girls is the 21st against Mays.”

There are no official preseason practices that can be held before tryouts. In years past, these workouts have been essential to the teams interactions, to their chemistry, and to their understanding of one another.

“In previous years, I went to preseason workouts, for sure,” former guard Jha’Quez Wright said. “Preseason workouts, they help build chemistry within the team. It helps us to start to get to know each other and how we play, and get to know the new players and how they play, and in general just build chemistry and relationships with each other to prepare.”

Most players agree that the workouts prior to tryouts help players feel out the situation of the team.

“[Official preseason practices] just created chemistry, and it builds confidence in different players, and gives them an understanding of how the season is going to go, and how the coaches act,” senior shooting guard Joseph Scott said. “It just helps to give a good feel of Grady basketball as a whole.”

Along with building chemistry, players also benefit from the conditioning and training aspect of the preseason workouts, helping them to sharpen their skills and get fit for the season.

“Preseason workouts help the guys with conditioning and getting back in shape, so nobody goes into the season too rusty,” junior small forward Joseph Crawford said.

Johnson agrees that there are several losses associated with not having official preseason workouts.

“I hope they’ll be ready, but it’s probably not realistic to expect them to be in as good shape as they would be if we had had our normal preseason programs and everything else,” Johnson said. “The athletes are usually able to get in shape pretty quickly though, so some of the guys who have some rust should be able to knock that off pretty quick.”

Because of these challenges, most players have found new ways to stay in shape independently.

“I do a lot more stuff by myself now. In recent years, like five days a week, I would be at the park or at the gym with people, but now I’ve been sticking to basic stuff on my own, not really anything too extraordinary,” Crawford said. “I haven’t had to get too creative because I’m just running, lifting weights, and shooting around, so that’s a little different.”

Scott has been preparing similarly, working alone but still just as hard as he normally would to get ready for the winter.

“Personally, I’ve just been working out every day, lifting weights, doing anything to my body to help me to prepare for the season,” Scott said. “With the gyms closed, I’ve just been lifting in my basement, and there’s a hill in my neighborhood I run, and also just shooting on a hoop in the back of my neighborhood. It’s the same kind of stuff I’ve done before, just staying prepared for the season in any way I can.”

Accountability has been key for the team. and Johnson hopes that his players will have the motivation and dedication to staying in shape despite having no official practices.

“I’ve been in contact with our guys through this whole thing,” Johnson said. “I haven’t been giving them specific workouts, but I’ve been encouraging the guys to try to stay involved as safely as possible and keep themselves in as good as shape as possible, but we haven’t had anything beyond that since the end of last season, with some guys playing travel ball, but as far as organized team stuff, there’s nothing.”

Players and coaches are optimistic on the outlook of the season due to the team’s strong work ethic and the fact that there are going to be many returning players. 

“For the most part, it’s the same guys that have been around that know each other that are playing on varsity this year, so it should not affect us too much.” Scott said.

Johnson even sees some potential benefits from the absence of preseason practices.

“In some ways, it might actually be helpful,” Johnson said. “Nobody’s tired of each other yet, nobody is getting on each other’s nerves yet, they’re not tired of hearing my voice yet, and everyone’s anxious to get started, so there’s a little bit of a fresh start there that may make things a little bit easier.”

Regardless of the effects of not having the traditional team workouts before tryouts in late October, the team, be it individually or together, continues to prepare in any way they can.

“I think our guys are going to be ready to go,” junior shooting guard Autrey Barnes said. “We’re looking to win our region this year, so we really just want to win, and we’re ready.”