"That is our No. 1 priority": Being COVID-19 safe first for St. Joseph girls basketball

St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall has been working with players on staying safe.

St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall has been working with players on staying safe.

David G. Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

St. Joseph girls’ basketball coach Chris Lindwall emphasized that safety will outweigh wins or loses when it comes to how he measures success this winter.

“We are taking it one day at a time, we all have to do our part,” Lindwall said of his instruction to players. “Wear masks, don’t go into large groups be smart. We must do our part, if we don’t do it that will affect a lot of things. The kids want to do their part, you can see they have worked hard. Our first two weeks were fantastic I’m proud of them. Our focus is getting to game one and keeping these kids safe. That is our No. 1 priority.”

St. Joseph has been meeting and going over conditioning through Zoom since October.

“Our school has done a great job supporting anything we could do athletically because it has been a tough time for the kids,” Lindwall said. “Kevin Butler our athletic director, Stacy Nasser our associate athletic director, Dan McDonagh our athletic trainer and Alyssa Thresher our director of health and wellness put together the best protocol to keep our kids safe and keep them working out.

“From the athletic side, Kevin and Stacy worked hard to make it work for us,” Lindwall said. “Boys coach Kevin Wielk and I have been working with the kids. We were able to get some fall league games in before it was shut down. Through November we couldn’t play. December we were virtual before we came back to school and were able to start working in Pods of 4.”

“We are fortunate because in groups of four we were getting together since late December,” Lindwall said. “You can only come then if you are in school and if you were learning virtual you couldn’t come.”

The Cadets have been practicing the past two weeks prior to opening their season on Feb. 9. The sessions are different than in years past.

“We have cut practices down to 90 minutes and we separate kids to control exposure. We are still in the weight room 30-35 minutes every day whether strength, agility or bikes,” Lindwall said. “We only have 11 kids at varsity practice 11 kids at JV, and 12 in freshman practice. The longer we can keep them safe the better.”

Lindwall switched things up when he got the team on the court.

“Because we are not doing a lot of scrimmages, we can work on a lot of things that we wouldn’t have done in the past. Usually we would have scrimmaged after four days then scrimmaged again after a few more days, then we would go to the Jamboree then we would scrimmage one more time,” he said.

“Now we are working on basics with one coach with guards and one coach with forwards and we work on those basics every day for 15-20 minutes of 90-minute practice,” he said. “We can film practices and see where kids are and adjust practice accordingly for the players. There is more focus players and skill work.

“Next week we will get more into game preparation. I took the first two weeks as if it was our first week of the season and spaced it out. That is a bonus to having three weeks to prepare. We will be in better shape than normal. We will be a little more skilled.”

St. Joe’s graduated its core group. Emily Haverl, Grace Cottle, Erin Parchinski and Nicole Zito are team captains.

“We didn’t name captains until preseason. The leadership package that is ingrained in being a captain has been passed down for years,” Lindwall said. “We waited because Emily was the only player returning with varsity minutes. The other three had moved up last year.

“These four have done nice job with positivity, supporting the younger kids, getting everyone going in the right direction. And they proved themselves through a difficult off season. We as a coaching staff decided we were going to name all four seniors as captains Through their leadership, I see what they have done to preserve this season.”

St. Joe’s boast a tall lineup.

“Size gives you advantage/disadvantage against certain teams, but we still have to perform,” Lindwall said. “We will still look to get the ball down the floor. We still are going to have man defense concepts and attack the rim as much as we can. We don’t change much which is good because in a shortened season. With 12 games instead of 20, you don’t have that time to make up for what happens in that first two weeks.”

Lindwall knows his team in chomping at the bit to compete.

“We can’t wait to these games in for our seniors, to get all the players back on court to play the game they love,” he said. “We want to go out and be competitive every game. We feel we have the makeup of players that can go out and do that.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354