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Coaching in quarantine: Lakewood's Cappelmann keeps a positive outlook

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 4/15/20

Adjusting to life during the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for everyone. The role of a high school coach looks very different now than it ever has and Ashley Cappelmann, who coaches softball at Lakewood, is a prime example.

Cappelmann …

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Coaching in quarantine: Lakewood's Cappelmann keeps a positive outlook

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Adjusting to life during the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for everyone. The role of a high school coach looks very different now than it ever has and Ashley Cappelmann, who coaches softball at Lakewood, is a prime example.

Cappelmann wears a lot of hats. She is a softball coach and a teacher, along with being a wife and mother. During the regular school year, she is generally able to wear one of those hats at a time. During the pandemic, they tend to sit on her head at the same time.

"I'm still adjusting to life at home as a teacher, and I have two young kids as well, so I have to teach one of them. She's in Pre-K, so she has packets she has to do," said Cappelmann. "I'm literally up every night until midnight, so I'm trying to adjust my schedule and figure out how things work. How can I be mom, teacher, softball coach, all while being contained to one house."

Finding that balance has been the biggest challenge for Cappelmann so far. Her husband, Tyler, has helped a ton, but he's still adjusting to life in the pandemic too.

"It's been tough. My husband has been a superhero there," said Cappelmann. "He's working too, he's a district manager over at Waffle Houses in Sumter and Manning and trying to deal with pay getting cut there and me teaching at home and coming up with these lessons for these kids and talking to my students every day.

"I'm trying to tell them that it's OK, I'm in this with them, it's new to all of us and we're going to get through this together. It's an adjustment, but we're doing the best we can."

This is a difficult time to be an authority figure, because there just aren't answers to a lot of the questions people ask. Cappelmann is tried to be as honest as she can with her students and athletes so they can all try to figure things out together.

"I try to be straightforward with them, with my students, my parents, my athletes, my babies at home. I'm like, 'Look, as soon as I know something, I'll let you know,' " she said. "Right now, we're just going off what the (Sumter School) district says because when school comes back, sports start up that same day.

"As far as answers, I just tell them we're taking it one day at a time. That's what I tell myself too, because if I don't take it one day at a time, I'm going to stress myself out."

The South Carolina High School League is still holding out hope that sports will resume in some capacity this spring, but that's still up in the air. Cappelmann has tried to keep a positive outlook on the situation, because she wants to get back on the diamond as much as her athletes do.

"I'm on the positive outlook. I'm just as anxious as my girls to hear something," said Cappelmann. "You can't redshirt a high school senior. Colleges can shut their seasons down and redshirt those players, but not with high school. We have higher hopes right now that we can get back on the field for my girls."

While Cappelmann wants her athletes to be prepared for the potential return of sports, she is also stressing that they don't forget the "student" in student-athlete. She has to make sure that her athletes take their schooling from home seriously so they remain eligible for sports in the spring and the fall.

"The first thing I tell them is that they're students first," said Cappelmann, who also coaches volleyball in the fall at Lakewood. "They have to make sure their grades are right now, because if they're not working on their grades, they're not going to be eligible for fall sports.

"For 99 percent of my girls, we don't have a problem with grades. They're honor society and in educational groups, so I don't have a problem with that, but since they're at home, like a lot of students do, and think they don't have to do the work."

Teaching isn't the only hat Cappelmann is wearing with her student-athletes. Once schoolwork is done, she wants her players to do whatever they can to stay sharp for a potential return to the field.

"If they have time, they need to be sure they're out there throwing; my pitchers need to be pitching," said Cappelmann. "I just said to keep their arms loose and don't sit on the couch and eat all the food; just stay in shape. I can't be there with them to be sure they're doing that. It's like an honor system, but my girls like to work.

"My practices are from 4-6 (p.m.), and we normally don't leave until 7 because they want to stay and get extra batting practice or extra defense, so I don't have to push too many of them to make sure they're doing what they need to be doing."

Cappelmann doesn't know what the softball season will look like if the Lady Gators are able to take the field again this spring, and she doesn't really care what it looks like. She just hopes her girls get another chance to take the field in 2020.

"I have no idea. I'm hoping that we do get back in May and maybe even before that we can start slowly going into practices or something. I just want to play and the girls want to play," said the Lakewood coach. "I don't know what's going to happen; I just hope its not a shutdown for the sake of those seniors."