It's an exhilarating time for Megan Obetz.
It's also a trying time for Warwick's rookie girls volleyball coach, who was handed the keys to the program earlier this summer — just in time to welcome her team back to on-campus workouts smack-dab in the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm definitely excited to be a head coach, but I'm also disappointed that my first go at it is in the middle of a pandemic,” said Obetz, a Lampeter-Strasburg grad and former volleyball standout for Elizabethtown College.
“It's a big challenge,” she said, “but I know we'll get through this as a team the best as we can.”
Like every other prep coach across the state, Obetz must oversee her team's voluntary workouts by a new set of rules. Social distancing, wearing masks and only allowing so many athletes into the gym at one time is the new normal after schools approved health and safety plans this summer.
“It's tough,” Obetz admitted. “I wear a mask when I'm coaching them, and I'm trying to yell through the mask so they can hear me. When they're competing, they don't have to wear a mask, but they do at other times, so that's also been a challenge. But I understand the safety behind it, and that absolutely has to be our first concern.”
It's not just X's and O's at this point. There is a lot to juggle.
“It's a little nerve-wracking because I have to make sure to collect all of the waiver forms, and make sure all of the equipment is getting sanitized, and that everyone's bags are spaced out for social distancing during water breaks,” said Obetz, who has served as an assistant coach at Warwick the last two seasons after a stint as an assistant at L-S.
“It's a lot to remember,” she said, “so I've been a little nervous about making sure to do everything the right way. But I will say that it's exciting to be back out and with everyone.”
Her players, who had been cooped up at home since mid-March, when Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools and the PIAA pulled the plug on the spring sports season, are also elated to be back out with their teammates and friends.
“I think the players have been positive,” Obetz reported. “I know they were really excited to get back and they were excited to see each other. We had to go through a long list of rules about when to wear a mask and social distancing and all of that stuff. They've been very understanding and very accepting of that.
“I've told them to try and be flexible. Things are going to change week by week with regulations, and how many people are allowed to be in the gym. Things like that. So we're trying to keep a positive, calm mindset, and accept the changes as they come.”
Obetz, her assistants, and all of the Warriors’ coaches are in constant contact with Warwick athletic director Ryan Landis. He has been tasked with orchestrating the school's health and safety plan, which means staying in touch with his staff about changes and updates.
“We're always talking about the importance of the screening questions, before they can even come into the gym, and being completely honest with answering those questions,” Obetz said. “And about their feelings, and if they're feeling nervous about coming to practice because they might have someone at home who is at risk. We want the girls to be honest with their emotions because this is a pretty traumatic thing for everyone to be going through.”
The PIAA tried to ease everyone's fears July 15, when executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi said the state is on track to start all fall athletic practices on time Aug. 17.
“It was encouraging to hear that, and it supports the mindset that we have to plan to have a normal season as best as we can,” said Obetz, who is a third-grade teacher at Lititz Elementary. “We need to be practicing and we need to be exercising and we need to be ready to play.
“I totally understand that the way things have been changing pretty much every single day that this all might get canned. But as of now, that announcement from the PIAA supports what we've been doing: Sticking to our health and safety plan and hoping for a normal season.”