While almost every single athletics program in Montgomery County is currently barred from any kind of in-person activities, the teams at Clarksville Academy have had no such restrictions for the past few weeks. Because the school is privately owned and not part of CMCSS, they have been able to set their own timelines for reopening.

The volleyball team has taken full advantage of being allowed to practice together. It started with “Phase 1” where there could only be up to 10 people in the gym at a time and nobody can share a volleyball or locker room. But after being off for so long, it was at least something.

“We spent the first two weeks kind of just conditioning, getting back into it, learning the basics again,” said coach Whitney Moore. “It’s slowing down our preseason process that we normally go through.

“This past week has been our Phase 2 week. We still have to limit 10 people at a time, but pretty much everything else is back to normal practice wise.”

Having to split the team into different practice sessions has obvious downsides. With teammates being unable to share the floor together, they are unable to build a rapport with one another, and chemistry is integral to winning in volleyball.

However, the rule came with an unexpected upside. Moore has split the two groups into “returners” – girls who were already on the team last season – and “newcomers” – girls who may be playing for the first time or are coming up through the middle school team. When having sessions exclusively with the newcomer group, Moore and her assistants are able to allocate more time to one-on-one coaching to girls who may need it more than others, getting them more familiar with the game. 

Sometimes, some girls may be unable to make it to practice. This has left room for a veteran or two to join the returners or vice versa, allowing for a degree of integration between the two groups, building camaraderie between the teammates who would otherwise be separated.

“We have a pretty talented group of freshmen, and (we’re) adding them into a group and throwing them in there and seeing how they do,” Moore said. “Our returners are very accepting of them and very encouraging to them, and it’s been a lot smoother than it’s been in the past where we kind of just had to stop everything and go back to square one and build everybody back from square one. This year is going a lot smoother in terms of adding new people when we can.”

There is plenty of building to do within the Lady Cougar program. They’ve won only one game in each of the past two seasons and two integral seniors – Vana Pridgen and Nadiya Stowe – graduated from last year’s squad.

Still, Moore believes that the team has steadily improved each year under her tutelage and does not expect that to change in 2020.

“They’re high energy, they always give 100 percent and we’ve had a little difficulty in that aspect in the past, trying to get everybody on board and buying into the same philosophy that we’re trying to put in place,” Moore said.

“This year, we’ve got a steady level of seniors that have been there throughout my coaching career. They’re picking up the new people and placing them in our program. Before, we just had new people and it was hard to mesh with the returning people because the returners were learning as well.”

While COVID-19 has certainly made things a bit more difficult for the Lady Cougars, the rebuilding program has managed to take positives and hopes to apply them moving forward.

On top of that, while Clarksville Academy practices, the rest of their division – which is based out of Nashville – remains mostly on hiatus.

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