Embarking on his 17th year as head coach of Neenah’s Girls Varsity Basketball team, Mr. Andy Braunel prepares for the most unpredictable season of his career. Although COVID-19 continues to cause cancelations and shutdowns, Braunel keeps an optimistic view and has a whole new focus going forward.
“This year has been so different, week to week we may not even know who our opponents are, as an opposing school could get shut down. You have to focus on what you do more, which is nice. We will have a mix of younger and older kids, so it will be exciting to just focus on us and building our own house.”
The basketball team spent its summer doing group workouts over Zoom, a decision that Braunel made for the benefit of keeping the whole program together, as opposed to bringing a much smaller group of athletes to workout at the high school. In addition, this week marks the second time that the team got to work out in the gym. Braunel recognizes a lack of court time as a potential issue when it comes to games, like taking a test without studying for it. However, his team’s progress since the summer Zoom workouts restores his confidence.
“We haven’t done a lot of big stuff which is scary since the season is scheduled to start in November. It has been a challenge, but I feel condition and strength-wise we are in a good position.”
In addition to the WIAA’s new winter sports guidelines, Braunel implements many more safety standards for his team: separate practice times to limit the number of teams in the fieldhouse at one time, team masks to be worn at all times, setting permanent small groups for skill drills for precise contact tracing and more buses to space kids out during travel.
According to a 2018-2019 high school sports participation survey, basketball has the most participants among winter sports for both boys and girls. With that being said, interest for the upcoming winter season is unknown. Some schools being shut down and cancelations will surely cut out lots of participants and schools.
Heading into a season as unpredictable as Wisconsin weather in the spring, Coach Braunel prepares to do whatever he needs to do to keep his team safe while getting the most out of the season.