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Local coaches doing what they can to prepare for (potential) season

News File Photo Rogers City softball coach Karl Grambau celebrates his team’s regional championship win in this June 2019 photo. Postseason runs have been synonymous with the Hurons for nearly 10 years, but Rogers City may not get that chance this year as all sports have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not a stretch to say Karl Grambau gets excited when springtime comes.

As coach of the Rogers City softball program, Grambau has presided over arguably the most successful era in program history. Since 2012, the Hurons have won eight district titles, six regional championships, made four appearances in the Division 4 final four and won a state championship in 2014.

But in the wake of public health concerns over COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Grambau, like hundreds of coaches in Michigan, is sitting at home wondering what comes next.

Rather than working with players on hitting drills in the school gym or supervising pregame infield and outfield before rivalry games, Grambau is stuck home wondering if his team will get a chance to make another postseason run.

“We hope we get a chance to play, especially for our seniors,” Grambau said. “We just want everyone healthy right now. Our community certainly loves softball around here, but some things are more important right now.”

Since March 13, all of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s member schools were directed to suspend all athletic activities including games, scrimmages, practices, conditioning and all organized team activities. That order is in effect until April 13 in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay home, stay safe” orders to help deter the spread of the virus.

Time will tell when or if the Hurons and other local sports teams get a chance to play this spring, but Grambau is planning as best he can. Spring practices began on March 9 and the Hurons got a few days worth of really good practices in before everything ground to a halt.

“It’s like moving the pieces to a puzzle. I’m always planning,” Grambau said. “We had a great week of practice and I was planning to see what we had to do to have success.”

Northeast Michigan teams are used to waiting it out in April as late-season snowstorms, rain and cold wreak havoc on the early part of the spring sports schedule.

But the coronavirus pandemic presents a different set of challenges because teams aren’t allowed to hold formal practices and people are encouraged to practice social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and close physical contact.

Ironically it comes during a year in which most teams would have had the chance to get outside to practice in March and possibly start their seasons on time.

“This is awesome track weather,” Alpena girls track coach Joy Bullis said. “I’m trying to keep things upbeat. I don’t want them to assume it’s done or that it’s over.”

To that end, Bullis has connected with members of her team on Facebook, posting short workouts they can do at home and encouraging them to do what they can to stay active.

Motivation, especially in the absence of formal practices, varies from athlete to athlete, but Bullis is confident that many of her athletes, especially the upperclassmen, are putting in work and know how important it is to stay active.

Bullis knows what to expect from her upperclassmen and what events to put them in for meets, but for freshmen or newcomers to the sport things aren’t as easy.

“I’m telling them ‘Hang in there. Chin up.’ Exercise will keep you active, so go do something,” Bullis said. “It’s hard for them to see the future, but staying active now could pay off later.”

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