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Helena basketball coaches navigate new COVID-19 challenges

Posted at 7:09 PM, Nov 26, 2020

HELENA -- With the falls sports seasons officially over, Montana high school sports finds themselves in a lull. Winter sports were scheduled to begin practices on Nov. 19 before the Montana High School Association changed that to Dec. 7 due to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the season is still slated to begin, and Helena Capital girls basketball coach Katie Garcin-Forba said with the way the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the season last year, the Bruins aren't taking anything for granted this year.

"Our season could end at any point in time. We experienced that last year, obviously, and so I think for us, as a coaching staff, we're trying to approach it with the players that we don't want to take anything for granted," said Garcin-Forba. "The time that we have together is incredibly lucky and we want to make the most out of every single day."

Across town, Helena High girls basketball coach Ben Dudek is in his first year as a head coach for the Bengals and said he’s actually a fan of the later start date, because it gives his players a bit more time to rest up ahead of the season.

"Most of our stuff was already in place, we were ready to go whenever that particular date came," Dudek said in regards to the shifted start date. "It gives certain players, volleyball players and soccer players, that their seasons maybe went a little bit longer than they would have to get some rest."

With the winter season comes a certain set of challenges, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas, something Helena Capital boys basketball head coach Guy Almquist is a bit worried about.

"How much can you really ask the kids to follow certain guidelines when they're with their families at the holidays? I'm not real comfortable with that myself as a coach, as it still is high school sports. So, I don't usually get too involved in that, but there's a significant risk," said Almquist.

Another worry for Helena High head boys coach Brandon Day is keeping a team close mentally but not close physically.

"Trying to still have that same team chemistry but also keep your space is going to be something that will be a challenge," said Day. "And then just trying to figure out how to best have a normal practice and to get something out of practice is going to be tough."

Challenges or not, the high school winter sports season begins on Dec. 7.