Page 5 - CHSCA Issue 3 2019-2020
P. 5

Pandemic Puts Vanderrest in Tough Spot
 By Paul Rosano
During the current Covid-19 pan- demic, most Connecticut high school coaches have literally had no direct contact with their student-athletes.
Coventry track coach Bill Vander- rest said several words come to mind. “Heartbreaking,” Vanderrest said. “It’s heartbreaking, knowing this is my big season and I can’t be out there. It’s heartbreaking what the se- niors are going through or not going through. It’s heartbreaking for my ju- niors because this is their big season
to get recruited.
“Juniors are losing opportunities
at getting good numbers posted and getting schools interested in them because this is their most important season. Most seniors have already decided where they are going to go. Recruiting has already taken place, so this is their victory dance. It’s the juniors that I’m feeling for right now.”
He said disappointing also comes to mind.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “When this first happened, we thought we would miss the first four weeks of the sea- son. Right now, the state champion- ships have been canceled. The writ- ing is on the wall. I think everybody knows that we’re not going back this year. Again, it’s the heartbreak of losing opportunities. Freshman and sophomores are losing a full season on instruction.”
He has tried to give his athletes some direction. He said Coventry, where as head coach he concentrates on the throwers (discus, javelin, ham- mer) and decathlon and pentathlon, created its own lifting programs in the past and this time he found an online source that uses a lot of body weight.
“It was designed to be done at home, so it was really a perfect thing for right now,” Vanderrest said.
His athletes are involved in an at- home conditioning program. Those who are into the technical aspects
have been watching videos. Vander- rest gets weekly e-mails of videos to watch and he sends those to his kids.
“But our facility is considered closed,” he said. “A lot of parks are still open. There are still a lot of plac- es people can still go.”
A lot of his throwers own their own equipment, but they can’t go to the school. Some have taken to throwing things in their back yard.
He said colleges are going to have to adapt. Younger athletes are not going to have the kind of numbers they’re used to. They might not be where they are expected to be as ju- niors and seniors.
Vanderrest is a math teacher in Mansfield, his wife a teacher in Ridge- field, so they are both doing on-line teaching. They have two young chil- dren, a second-grader who is doing on-line learning and a preschooler, for whom they are creating learning experiences.
“We’ve got two teachers and two students in our house, so between teaching other kids, teaching my own kids and trying to manage some sort of on-line presence with my track team, this is the hardest I’ve ever had to work,” Vanderrest said.
“I want to have a bigger presence
with my athletes, and it has suffered somewhat because of the attention I have to put into my own teaching and my kids teaching. I’m a little em- barrassed to say but I have not put in the time with my track athletes that I wish I could right now.”
Vanderrest can look back on the success of some of his athletes in re- cent years. He said Coventry made Nationals with seven athletes in the same year two years ago, the first time any Coventry athlete went to Nationals.
He said the support from the community was “phenomenal.” Viewing parties were held in town as teachers went on-line, watched a live feed of athletes competing and sent videos of the parties to Vanderrest and his team.
The following year Nick Prono- vost, a decathlete, finished fourth and earned All-American honors. He achieved it despite having a torn UCL in his elbow. He injured himself during the javelin, fouled and had no mark. All-American recognition was slipping away. He found a way to take one more throw and get a measured mark of about 140 feet.
“When I tell the full story, I get these goose bumps,” Vanderrest said. “I was standing next to his dad and his dad and I were both crying because of the amount of heart it took him to get that throw out there to continue in the decathlon was incredible.”
Last year, Vanderrest also had a hammer thrower, Joe Lanham, the third thrower in Connecticut to throw more than 200 feet, was seeded 13th and placed eighth to make the finals.
Vanderrest, who has been named CHSCA Track Coach of the Year, said awards are not important to him and that his athletes’ awards, like Prono- vost’s and Lanham’s, mean the most to him.
“It’s what I’ve been able to do with my athletes. That’s the reward right there,” Vanderrest said.
  CONNECTICUT COACH • ISSUE 3 • 2019-2020 • PAGE 5

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