MEDFORD, Ore. — It was a long-awaited return for the Black Tornado volleyball players as they stepped foot in the North Medford gym for the first time in what felt like forever.
It's the next step to getting back to somewhat normal for these athletes, but practices will still feel different in Phase II reopening in Oregon.
"The biggest thing is just trying not to stand so close to each other," senior Catherine Rostel said. "We never realized how close we all stand next to each other. We all just want to be right next to each other, talking a bunch and so, having to separate is really weird and we're not used to it."
While players don't have to wear masks, they are supposed to maintain six feet from each other during practices. That means that first-year head coach Josh Elbert has to find new ways to run his drills.
"It's been a challenge to be a little bit more creative," Elbert said. "[But we're] always talking about athlete's safety first. That's our biggest concern right now."
The volleyball teams are split into groups. Those groups, or "pods" as Elbert describes them, cannot share volleyballs during practices and most remain separate throughout the entire practice. Volleyballs are also disinfected before and after each practice as an extra level of precaution.
Their group training started a few weeks ago with socially distant conditioning on the North Medford softball fields. Elbert wanted to make sure his team was back into shape after a long break from sports.
And now that they're allowed back into the gym, some of the players think they're going to be even more prepared if they get to play this fall.
"I think we've just been taking that extra step and I haven't really been seeing anyone else do it so I think we'll be hitting the ground running when it comes time," senior Hannah Drysdale said.