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One week to catch your breath

July 04, 2021 - 00:00
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Last week was the “dead period” in Oklahoma, which is unofficially the one week during the summer when parents and coaches of junior high and high school athletes are allowed to vacation without fear of retribution (that’s a joke, sort of).

The break was instituted by the OSSAA in March 2018 and went into effect the summer of 2019.

Under the rule, “secondary-level students enrolled or pre-enrolled at a member school may not use any member school’s athletic facilities during the dead period in connection with any athletic activity governed by the OSSAA. Member school coaches, assistant coaches and sponsors may not have any contact with.. students in that member school…for the purpose of coaching, training or instructing.”

If you want the Cliff’s Notes version: OSSAA’s member schools (ie. all of them in Kingfisher County) cannot allow the use of any of their facilities or any contact between coaches and their athletes.

The length of the “week” is a nine-day period centered around the Fourth of July.

With that holiday falling on a Sunday this year, the dead period went into effect last weekend and ends Monday.

It signals the end of a furious June that includes individual camps for basketball, baseball, football, softball and just about any other sport you can imagine.

Then there are the team camps and summer baseball and softball games, all of which come on the heels of some form of summer workouts at the respective schools (Summer Pride at Kingfisher, for example).

The hectic 30 days of June give almost no breather from the end of school and the OSSAA (and its member schools) wanted to ensure that everyone was not just allowed - but forced - to take a break for a certain period during the summer.

Last year’s dead period was eliminated, but wasn’t a necessity with COVID-19 wrecking most summer events.

It’s back in effect this year.

Jason Sternberger was - and still is - on the OSSAA board of directors when the rule was passed.

“If everyone will be consistent with it, it will be good for coaches and kids,” Sternberger said just before the first dead period in 2019. “They need a break from each other.”

If school districts aren’t consistent, there will be penalties for the coaches involved.

Violations will result in the coach or sponsor being suspended for the first half of the regular season in that sport.

Even if school personnel not designated as the coach or sponsor violates the rule, the head coach will receive the same punishment.

In other words, the gyms, fields, weight rooms and everything else sports-related at your school should have been empty last week.

You, personally, weren’t even allowed to take your own child to a school facility on your own accord.

Of course you wouldn’t have done that because you were on vacation last week.

I put very little stock in summer league results.

And when I say very little, I mean less than you’re thinking.

So much does - or doesn’t - go into summer league games, no matter the sport.

Kids could be gone. Coaches for either team could be experimenting with inexperienced players.

Kids might be playing their second game of a double-header after three basketball games in an non-air conditioned gym which came after two hours of Summer Pride weightlifting and conditioning.

You just never know.

However, you can observe some things, which I did on the basketball front at a trio of events featuring some local teams: Boys and girls team camps hosted at Kingfisher and another one-day team camp at Cushing.

Here’s a little about what I saw, if you care:

• I like what I’ve seen so far from new KHS girls coach Taylor Cooper (who will be Taylor Young when she returns from the dead period)…and new junior high coach Morgan Marks for that matter.

There’s the very obvious fact that she has yet to coach a meaningful game, which is what she’ll ultimately be judged on.

But, she’s come in ready to work and expects the same from her players.

I felt it was a good sign when we announced her hiring on our paper’s Facebook page.

A normal post for us reaches a couple thousand people one way or another.

A popular post finds its way to about 5,000.

The post about Kingfisher hiring its new superintendent reached 6,300 folks’ accounts.

The one of the KHS girls golf team finishing as state runner-up had a reach of nearly 8,500.

The initial post of Cooper being hired?

Try 12,941 people.

That tells me she’s well-connected in the basketball world.

The response wasn’t overwhelmingly positive; it was unanimous.

That tells me she’s well-respected in the basketball world.

The things I saw in limited time watching her high school team this summer provides a lot of optimism that it was a good hire.

Again, it’s not about results on the scoreboard, but rather the way the team is coached in the huddle, from the sideline and after games.

I saw similar things from Marks - and even Cooper herself - during the junior high girls games.

Let’s hope it translates on the court during games.

• If you read end-of-season columns in this newspaper, you’re well informed that while both Kingfisher boys and Lomega girls lost their share of talent from state championship teams, their respective cupboards aren’t bare.

Lomega lost a pair of All-State selections in Emma Duffy and Adysen Wilson, both of whom are versatile players who stand at or near 6-feet tall.

However, what the Lady Raiders do return are a pair of state tournament MVPs (Hensley Eaton and Darcy Roberts), the most underrated player in the county in my opinion (Sydni Walker) and a host of other Lady Raiders who earned a ton of playing time either last season, the one before or in both.

That was on display at Cushing when Lomega went toe-to-toe with Howe (last year’s 2A champ) and Sapulpa (last year’s 5A champ).

Again, results don’t matter but what you observe does. What I observed was a team that’s still got a lot of weapons, a lot of experience and will still have the ability to run most teams out of the gym.

Although Lomega girls basketball almost never goes anywhere, it’s a fact the program truly isn’t going anywhere far from the state title scene.

Keep this in mind: Last year’s third and fourth grade, fifth and sixth grade, and seventh and eighth grade teams all went undefeated. Combined with the high school’s 27-0 mark, the Lomega girls teams were a combined 61-0 in 2020-21.

The third and fourth graders were 6-0.

The fifth and sixth grade team went 12-0.

Seventh and eighth graders finished up at 16-0.

That bodes well for 2021- 22 and ’23 and ’24 and ’25 and ’26 and....

In other words, it’s exactly what we’ve witnessed with the program most of our entire lifetimes.

I’ve also been able to watch the KHS boys, Cashion boys and - to a lesser extent - the Cashion girls this summer.

Look for my thoughts on them in an upcoming Suite.