Local Sports, Sports

Trinity’s Baldy talks small school hurdles with overlapping seasons

This is the last in a two-part series looking at how multi-sport athletes will handle back-to-back and overlapping seasons

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Someone who sees firsthand the issues a small school athlete faces with overlapping seasons is Trinity Christian girls’ basketball coach Mike Baldy. 

Baldy, a teacher at Preston High, notes the biggest problem the girls have faced is the constantly changing start date, though Gov. Jim Justice hasn’t altered the current Feb. 14 practice start date.  

“There’s some exhaustion and some positivity,” Baldy said. “They’re eager to get going, it’s just so hard to keep everyone eager because the pessimism builds and builds every time the government makes decisions for these kids. They’re contradicting each other, they’re constantly changing and it’s hard to tell the kids, ‘Hey, listen, we’re shutting down but it looks like this time, this is good.’ 

“I told them the first time this was good and we weren’t going to get shut down a million times during the season, we’re just doing a shut down now and we’ll be back in January ready to rock and roll. Then, the next shutdown happens and I have to tell them, ‘This is also good because it looks like we’ll really get to play this time.’ And then it gets moved forward and I have to tell them, ‘OK, we moved it forward but it still looks like we’ll get to play.’ Every time I say something like that, I become less and less believable, and I think the same things going on in their head. They’re thinking the same things, and they’re believing themselves less each time. It’s a challenge, but we’re eager to face challenges as a team.”

Aside from that, Baldy noted that he believes TCS is in a good spot to handle any challenges that come up. Currently, he sees two initial problems: Time and the potential to wear his kids out.

“The single-A specific challenge with sports overlapping is you need kids to play multiple sports,” Baldy said. “When you’ve got not a ton of kids in your high school, you need the football kids to be playing basketball and baseball and the tennis kids to be playing girls’ basketball and running cross country. We’ve always encouraged our basketball players to play other sports and if they get time to also do travel ball; now we’re in a spot where we’ve encouraged this for a long time and now it’s going to intrude on our season while we intrude on their season. 

“The main challenge to me is going to be time, making sure our practices line up with track. Track is going to be the big one. The next challenge, but one we’re ready to face and we’re going to do just fine with it is to make sure we don’t wear the kids out. They’re kids, they’re going to be ready to go. When I was in college, I played basketball at the Rec [Center] for six hours a day; these kids can hang. They’re in far better shape than I was in college.” 

Baldy and his staff already do a good job of maintaining the players’ physical health. After game days he reviews film with his girls, has them work on foul shots or fundamentals. Still, as the seasons begin to overlap, multi-sport athletes will need to get their required 14 practices in to compete. One lucky nugget for small schools is the ease of working with other coaches. Some are parents of athletes, such as Trinity track and field coach John Barnett whose daughter, Jenna, plays for Baldy. Maybe it sweetens the pot, but Barnett and Baldy were able to work out a schedule far in advance that works for both coaches as well as the athletes affected. 

Though he didn’t want to say he dodged any problem, the situation got better for winter athletes when Justice pushed forward the practice start date.

“The issue improved in the fact that our season won’t be a month long,” Baldy said. “Six weeks is pushing it, but it’s 50% longer than a month-long season. We’re going to get to play those 18 games. It’s pretty darn close to a regular season; ten games, that’s not a regular season. That’s like you see University and Morgantown had in football, their five, six games was nothing. That wasn’t a season. If we get 18 games, even 16, then get into sectionals, we can leave with the feeling that it was pretty darn close to a normal season as far as length.” 

Another problem small schools can face is the new four-group classification system installed by the WVSSAC last year. With that, the Trinity girls’ team moved to double-A and the boys’ opted into triple-A. As for how it’s challenging to Baldy’s team, truthfully, it isn’t yet. TCS will still be playing the same teams from recent years, except for one special game Baldy has been pushing for hard: Morgantown. 

“We finally have Morgantown on the schedule this year. More than anything, that has been the spark for us,” he said. “When we were lifting over the summer, we’d do 12 reps and say, ‘OK, do an extra one for Morgantown,’ or, ‘Come on, girls, we aren’t playing Hundred we’re playing Morgantown.’ 

“Ultimately, it’s one game that has no bearings other than it’s one loss or one win, but the kids know the Morgantown girls, I know Jason [White], it’s a big school with a lot of history, we have so much respect for us – that’s been a jolt in our rears, something to be excited about this season.” 

Trinity also adds Frankfort and Petersburg, tougher competition than the Warriors are used to, according to Baldy. Familiar matchups include Notre Dame, South Harrison, Braxton County and the big-ticket rivalry with Clay-Battelle.

“Something I saw early in the football season was, ‘Will there be an asterisk next to whoever wins championships this year?’ You can put the biggest asterisk you want, as long as that asterisk means, ‘This team has way more challenges than any other team has had in the past.’ 

“Playing less games doesn’t make whoever wins any state championships this year, conference championships, anything like that, that’s not any less meaningful of a game. I think that’s more meaningful. That, what I just said, is what I’ll tell the girls first day of practice when we’re finally back in the gym, and we’ll start our lay-up drills and will be going like it’s nothing.” 

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