Fisher head boys basketball coach John Fisher said he hasn’t had to tell one athlete to stay focused as they have been allowed to return to school for workouts during the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think they’re pretty excited to be back around everybody,” Fisher said. “They’re antsy. They want to do stuff as much as we want to do stuff. It’s refreshing.”

Fisher male athletes have been working out indoors and outdoors as each school proceeds differently.

Running bleachers June 17

Senior Kwaiyn Martin, right, and sophomore Colby Duitsman run the bleachers during workouts last week at Rantoul Township High School. So far, all organized training activities are taking place outdoors at RTHS.

At Rantoul Township High School, athletes’ workouts will be confined to outdoors for a couple of weeks before they also head indoors to hit the weights.

“We are doing a split between indoor weight lifting in small groups” and outdoor work, Fisher head football coach Jake Palmer said. “They’re doing some core work, plyometrics and conditioning.”

Palmer oversees work in the weight room, while Fisher is in charge outdoors. The weight equipment is sanitized after each workout session.

Workouts at both schools are broken into groups of no more than nine athletes each. At Fisher, workouts take place in the afternoon, while at RTHS, there are morning and afternoon workouts to keep the groups small.

“With the smaller numbers it’s easier for them to get a lot of work in and improve on whatever (they need to),” Fisher said, noting there are four time slots being used. A fifth might need to be added “based on the numbers and guys coming back from vacation.”

Fisher cheerleaders and girls athletes were to begin workouts this week. Fisher soccer co-ops with Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and will possibly begin workouts this week as well.

Fisher kids in weight room June 17

Fisher coach Jake Palmer supervises athletes doing weight training, including Cale Horsch, squatting, last week.

Both schools are running a Monday-through-Thursday workout schedule.

RTHS athletic director Travis Flesner said cheerleading and volleyball workouts are also expected to start this week.

Some cross country athletes have been running a couple days a week.

Temperature checks and a wellness questionnaire is done prior to workouts, and hand sanitizer is given out. So far there have been no symptoms of the virus.

RTHS basketball coach Ryan Parker said the Eagles athletes are “starting out light,” doing pushups, sit ups, body squats, tire jumps and running on the bleachers. We’re hoping to get in the weight room, probably not next week but the week after.

“We’re kind of being real cautious to start. Hopefully kids have been doing” workouts at home. “Some have and some haven’t.”

The basketball program has been doing a running challenge. The players download an app, and Parker has been keeping track of how much each player has run. The leader of the pack has run 20 miles.

Prizes will be awarded for the athletes with the top three totals.

Parker said the coaches knew coming in that “strength and conditioning is a huge part in us turning the corner. Yesterday, I was ecstatic about our turnout. At one point we had 18 guys. That’s the max number we can have.”

Some RTHS and Fisher athletes play both basketball and football. The workouts have been a mixture of each. Thirty athletes total showed up at Rantoul.

Parker is optimistic about where the basketball program is headed.

“I know we’re going to be able to do some things we haven’t done in the past and get it back on the winning track,” he said.

RTHS football coach Tom Hess said each of the workout groups has a captain, who chooses the workout time. They are using the same workout as the basketball players, just different time slots.

Hess said he is letting the group captains take responsibility for getting the players in their group to show up for workouts.

“They’re on Snapchat together and group texting,” he said. “I’m trying to put some leadership opportunities in their hands.”

He said the players’ actions have been encouraging.

Hess said the time off without a workout regimen since mid-March, when the stay-at-home order went into effect, will affect each athlete differently.  Not many RTHS athletes have home gyms to continue to work out in.

“I can say our guys were working real hard through the winter,” Hess said. “We had some real high record-breaking strides in the weight room.”

Hess said the time off will hurt in that regard, but he expects the Eagles to bounce back.

“This has been the best attitude of any group since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s a group of kids that wants to do better and win games. They’re pretty motivated. We have a group of kids that’s pretty talented.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com