Maranacook boys soccer coach Don Beckwith, left, jokes with players during an Aug. 16, 2018 preseason practice in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

AUGUSTA — The fall season is months away. But Emma White wants to be ready.

The midfielder, a rising senior, has been active in getting a group of her Mt. Blue girls soccer teammates together once or twice a week, where they’ll find a space and — keeping their distance — run through some individual and group practice drills, the kind they would be doing on a normal September or October afternoon.

The combination of the coronavirus and the Maine Principals’ Association’s hands-off period has meant a June without games, and a restriction on in-person, team-organized activities lasting until Monday. And for the players, that means it’s on them to kick off the rust and get in shape for the season.

“There is a lot on athletes’ shoulders at this point,” White said. “People need to motivate themselves, because up until a few weeks ago, we couldn’t meet as somewhat of a group. You had to push yourselves individually. … It’s a lot to get yourself up and moving.”

Team contact has been a constant over the last two weeks of June, though the means of accomplishing it have varied. Sometimes it’s been the players taking the initiative to get teammates together for a few drills, and sometimes the coaches, unable to see their players in person, have been active in organizing virtual meetings to discuss issues both on the field and off.

Winslow boys soccer coach Aaron Wolfe, for instance, has held Zoom meetings for his team, where he shares conditioning workouts and soccer drills he arranged a few years ago that they can do with a limited amount of space.

“We tried to find something that we could have them do individually, right at their house. Something where they can get some work in with a ball,” he said. “(They’ve been about) getting as many touches as possible, and in a tight area. Many different soccer-specific moves with a ball, and incorporating some conditioning with it, trying to keep the tempo up and doing it at a high intensity.”

Levi Olin, who is going into his junior season as a forward for Winslow, said he looks forward to the chances to touch base.

“There’s a lot of fitness stuff, because that’s one of the big things, and it’s hard to do on your own because kids don’t like running,” he said. “He gave us some stuff to do and encouraged us to involve some of the younger players. It was good, definitely, to hear from him.”

Winthrop field hockey coach Jessica Merrill, left, celebrates with captains Brooklyn Gaghan, Gia Francis and Kerrigan Anuszewski, after the Ramblers sank St. Dominic in the Class C South title game last season in Sanford. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald file photo Buy this Photo

Winthrop field hockey coach Jess Merrill has held virtual meetings with her team the past two weeks and started a Google document containing videos of field hockey activities they can do.

“The girls are pretty eager, but they’re also pretty anxious and nervous as to how the rest of the summer and fall is going to play out,” she said. “I really want to follow the MPA and CDC recommendations. It’s just making sure everyone is healthy.”

Merrill has stressed fitness to her players.

“I have a Facebook group too, we’re all linked to (that), and it’s just a constant ‘Hey, make sure you’re starting to condition yourselves,’ ” she said. “We’ve been talking about how to get back into a routine of working out and getting the motivation to do so when they’ve been out of sorts for so long.”

Maranacook boys soccer coach Don Beckwith doesn’t hold team-wide sessions to discuss training or soccer exercises, but said he stresses fitness and safety to the player who calls him looking for advice on preparing for the season.

“I try to encourage them to get to the track and take care of (conditioning). We’ll get touches. We’ll be OK in that area,” he said. “And even in fitness, I think we’ll be OK. I have pretty smart kids, they tend to come (to practice) fit. This is a little bit different, but I would bet a good majority of my kids are working out or running, because if not, they know there’s a price to pay because they’ll sit or get hurt.”

One of those players is midfielder and rising junior Eric Vining, who works out every day, practices twice a week with Seacoast United and occasionally gets together with defender Chase McLaughlin for some distance drills.

“It’s been really tough (this summer) because, no contact, you can’t scrimmage or anything,” Vining said. “It’s basically been a focus on just skill. It’s hard to get that in-game feel.”

Mt. Blue’s White, who also plays for Central Maine United, has worked with teammates to set up practices.

“We are able to set up some drills that we can run through, and sometimes we casually get on a ball, maybe do three (on) four, but try passing around people and intercepting passes,” she said. “Just things that we are able to do while following guidelines and keeping people safe.”

Other teams feature both coaches and players leading the way. At Cony, football coach B.L. Lippert organizes separate Zoom meetings for linemen and skill positions to both check in and discuss football, but quarterbacks Riley Geyer and James Presti have also consistently gotten teammates together over the past few weeks to throw and work on routes.

“The blackout period (says) we can’t be with our coach, but it never said anything about players can’t get together,” said Geyer, a senior this year. “So that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to get the best out of it.”

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