12052020 Newport's Morgan Roberts works on a defnesive shuffle move during practice on Thursday

Newport’s Morgan Roberts works on a defensive shuffle move during practice on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

CLAREMONT — The sounds of squeaking sneakers and bouncing balls has begun with a bit of a different twist. When basketball players enter the gym, their temperature is taken, a form is answered and records are kept before even putting on their sneakers. Local schools are preparing for the winter season as the doors have opened for “skills and drills” sessions for some teams in our region.

While Vermont is in a holding pattern, teams at Stevens High School, Sunapee, Newport and Kearsarge are preparing for a January start to the season.

“It just feels good to get a basketball in their hands and let them get on the court,” said Stevens girls JV coach Steve Condon before practice had begun.

Each school is taking their own approach to allowing teams to get together as Kearsarge is going with 6 players at a time.

“We have six hoops so I’m going with a player per basket to work on shooting, dribbling and footwork. I rotate players in and out so there is only six kids at a time in the gym,” said Kearsarge girls head coach Keith Roberts. “There are rules in place, when the kids enter the gym, they must place their gear well away from everybody else, bring their own drink and absolutely will not remove their masks. If they need a breather without a mask, they must leave the gym, no exceptions.”

Down the road in Sunapee, Tim Puchtler is beginning his sixth season at the helm for the boys team and his focus is on following guidelines.

“I’m going with two groups for practices, half the team is in the lobby while the other half works on shooting and drills. It’s different but the kids are excited and have no problem wearing masks as long as they can play,” Puchtler said. “Conditioning will be key this year, we had zero summer basketball and no camps so if they didn’t play soccer, they need to get into shape. We’ve got some good height and are athletic and we can’t wait to get going.”

When Stevens boys head coach Ray Curren’s team finishes practice, there is a break before Stevens head coach Ivy Condon’s girls team is allowed in the gym.

“It’s the new norm, checking in and taking temperatures, the boys are excited to play and we have good numbers of players for the season, I think we’re the only state in New England that is allowing basketball so we are very grateful for the opportunity” Curren said.

The Lady Cardinals cannot enter the gym until 10 minutes before practice and Condon takes temperatures before anything else.

“I’m going with two groups,” said Condon as the first group of 10 players took the court. “It’s been great, no complaints from anyone. All the girls want to do is play. They all have great attitudes and the skills we are working on will carry right into the next phase of the season.”

The Cardinals will be back in Divison III this season and a local schedule will be on the menu.

Girls JV coach Gary McCall was running the show in Newport on Thursday for open gym as there were 15 players in attendance with lots of distancing taking place.

“I think the kids arms are sore because they’ve been shooting so much, we have a couple of players on each basket for shooting and rebounding, doing things safely but still giving the kids a chance to get ready” McCall said. “It’s so nice to be able to get the kids on the floor, they haven’t been able to pick up a ball for so long as a group, it just feel right.”

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