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Coaching during quarantine: Sumter’s Shumake stresses importance of social distancing

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 4/17/20

Sumter High School baseball head coach Brooks Shumake isn't taking the coronavirus pandemic lightly, and he's making sure his athletes aren't either. He wants his kids to be active and ready for a potential return to the diamond, but he doesn't want …

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Coaching during quarantine: Sumter’s Shumake stresses importance of social distancing

Posted

Sumter High School baseball head coach Brooks Shumake isn't taking the coronavirus pandemic lightly, and he's making sure his athletes aren't either. He wants his kids to be active and ready for a potential return to the diamond, but he doesn't want them to risk their health to do so.

"Right now, there are bigger and more important things than baseball," said Shumake. "Right now, the virus is winning, if we want to make this an analogy of sports. The virus is 10-run ruling us right now as far as what we're able to do, so somebody has got to get up and find a way to compete against this virus and the whole country is trying to do that.

"The scientists and people who sit in front of a microscope all day, those guys have got to figure out a way to get this thing because we're in the bottom of the seventh and we've got to figure out how to beat this thing."

Social distancing is the most important thing individuals can be doing right now. Spring sports has been shut down since the middle of March when Governor Henry McMaster closed all public high schools. The earliest schools can open at this time is April 30.

Shumake is making sure his athletes do whatever they can around the house to stay fit, rather than risk their health to play baseball.

"We're kind of being told what to do as coaches and right now that means being quarantined, and we're not supposed to do anything that would put anyone at risk of getting this virus," said Shumake. "I'm letting my kids know that they need to try to do something, even if it's just inside their houses. Just trying to do something that has to do with the movement of the game, because they need to do something with their time.

"In a lot of ways we're kind of stifled in terms of what can be done and there's no other way around it."

Shumake hasn't tried to give his athletes a specific regiment, because he knows that all of his athletes have different things available to them at home. For Shumake, a baseball workout right now can be as simple as dry swings without a bat or playing catch with someone in the backyard.

"The only thing we can suggest to our kids right now is if their dad can go out and play catch with them in the yard and they feel like that's safe, that's something that they can do, but we can't really ask kids to gather," said Shumake. "It's a family situation where if you're quarantined at home and you're on lockdown, whatever your devices are to stay at home, whether its your parents or whoever, that's about as far as it goes.

"To suggest that they should be doing anything more than that right now would be a lie."

Luckily for Shumake, many of his players were already taking it upon themselves to do everything they could to stay game-ready.

"You've got some people that are raring to practice and they're going to find a way to do it," said Shumake.

While this spring has been difficult for everyone, Shumake is proud of the maturity his athletes have shown while they've been forced to the sidelines.

"They're disappointed and everything, but they're also very mature in that they understand the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in," said the Sumter baseball coach. "The seniors I've talked to aren't taking this frivolously in terms of not being serious about this is much more important than the moment.

"They're just a bunch of good kids that are just a joy to be with."

Shumake hopes the season is going to be able to start up again at some point, but that is still up in the air. The South Carolina High School League hasn't shut down the season yet, but if it is able to start sports again, it's hard to know what that season would look like. Shumake doesn't really care what format the rest of the spring season would take, he just wants to take the field with his players again.

"Our best-case scenario is that we'd be able to gather again and this thing would be over with and we could go have fun on the baseball field and it would be about cracker jacks and all that stuff," said Shumake. "That would be enough. It would be enough just to be able to gather and compete, no matter if it was just a few games or whatever. If they were to decide we weren't going to have an actual championship, just getting on the field would be a lot for our kids."