Virtual School, Practices Keep Student-Athletes in the game

Mazama High School sophomore Anahi Pinedo was excited for her second softball season. Freshman Ella Baley, a
shortstop, was ready to play on her first high school team.

Then COVID-19 hit. Schools closed and spring sports were canceled, forcing the two Vikings and their teammates
to give up dreams of home runs and shutouts, of team celebrations and dugout camaraderie.

But thanks to Todd Nickerson, Mazama’s head softball coach, the team is still “together,” challenging each other in
workouts and practicing their skills — physically and mentally – as members of the virtual Viking Softball School.
“We wanted to keep the girls connected to the team, game, and school – to provide a sense of normalcy in times that are anything but normal,” said Nickerson, who created the school after learning his team would be “on leave” for the season. More than 20 of his student-athletes enrolled. “It provides a chance for players to stay involved with their team and motivates them to workout, practice skills, and keep their head in the game.”

Nickerson is one of several coaches in the Klamath County School District who is working to keep their student-athletes engaged. Mazama’s track coach, Justin Davidson, is offering optional virtual track meets through
athletic.net, which allows athletes to “compete” virtually with other athletes around the country. (Athletes must
submit proof through the use of video or GPS). Lost River and Henley softball and baseball coaches also are staying in touch with their athletes through online activities.

For Pinedo, Viking Softball School keeps her connected to Mazama as well as the team. “Staying engaged online
helps because Coach Nickerson pushes us and it gives us an opportunity to stay active,” she said, adding that
distance learning overall is difficult for her because she is a hands-on learner. “When Coach Nickerson posts our
achievements, we see that we are still a team and will still work hard to improve.”

Mazama junior Raine Wilcox, who has played softball since she was 5, is for the first time facing a spring without
ball games. She immediately joined Nickerson’s online Viking Softball School.

Mazama Viking softball player Ella Baley takes a photo of her performing one of the skill sessions from the online
Viking Softball School created by head coach Todd Nickerson.

“Mazama’s softball program isn’t only about playing softball,” she said. “It’s about learning how to be a team
player, being accountable, and learning how to be a better person off the field. As Coach Nickerson always tells us,
‘If all I teach you is how to run bases and do a bunt coverage, I’ve done my job wrong.’ ”

As a member of Mazama’s Viking Softball School, student-athletes get daily workouts and assignments. Each is
worth points, and to earn a varsity letter, a player must earn 300 points. The school also includes activities to
enhance softball skills and knowledge as well as a player’s personal well-being and their impact on others.
For example, students can earn points by playing catch and hitting every day as well as sending emails of gratitude
to their teachers, helping out around the house without being asked, participating in spirit days, and watching
leadership videos. 

“Earning a letter is a big deal,” Nickerson said. “You take your work seriously, are committed, show up to practices
and events, and strive to be a standout.”

In one 20-point assignment, his student-athletes are asked to watch a 45-minute video about Brian Cain’s 10 pillars
of mental performance and write about how they can use them to be a better athlete and person. Others deal with the more physical aspects of the game: 15 minutes of catch, 75 swings, and specific workouts.

There are short-answer questions and bonus assignments.

Baley, who also plays basketball and volleyball, said this is the first time in 10 years she hasn’t had near-daily
practices. “This has definitely taken a toll on my life,” she said. “But it helps because my teammates and I text each
other about softball and about the challenges. I have taken many swings and spent hours playing catch.”
Wilcox remains positive about distance learning and the canceled sports season but admits it is hard.

“This season would’ve been a fantastic season,” she said. “It breaks my heart for everyone that we don’t have the
opportunity to play. The seniors this year have been there since my freshman year, and they’ve pushed me to work
my hardest and be the best I can be. They not only are there for me but for everyone else on the field.”

Pinedo agreed.

“My heart hurts for the seniors,” she said. “They don’t get to play their last game or sign the shed door as a way of
leaving a mark. I thank them for helping me get to where I am today.”

Check out the Basinlife.com Klamath County School District Page HERE for more news and information! 

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