Debra Kortbawi, the head softball coach and administrative dean at Highlands Ranch High School, is also coach of the Colorado Cougars club softball team.
She finally got her club team together to practice and play a few games in two Wichita, Kansas tournaments during the first two weekends in June.
The 14U Jaguars’ 11-player roster is made up of eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade players who will attend Highlands Ranch, Valor Christian, Mountain Vista, Cherokee Trail, SkyView Academy, Bennett and Elizabeth high schools when school resumes.
After the shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kortbawi and the players welcomed the chance to get out on a softball field.
“Gosh, it was so good,” said Kortbawi. “It was such a good feeling. The girls got some fresh air, got out with their friends and had something to do. Our parents were thrilled to get them the heck out of their face for a little bit after being with them for a couple months.
“The players were so excited. Gosh we were so behind. Our first game the players were like: `Are we throwing? Is this what we have to do?’ It just looked like the first day of February. They were slow, sluggish and they were more chitty-chatty with each other more than anything else.”
The team stayed in Wichita for a week, found a field on which to practice and spent some time at a water park.
“The restrictions in Kansas were pretty much the same.” explained Kortbawi. “It was not a horrible thing. There were certain restrictions of ways we had to go in and out of their gates. When we are on defense we had to play with our ball so we kept our ball and the umpires didn’t touch the balls at all. If you hit a foul ball, the other team gives us the ball and we sanitize it and they do the same.
“They kind of restrict the bleachers. So the parents kind of had to bring their own seats. They really didn’t make us social distance in the dugout because they figure we are practicing and pretty close together and it is kind of stupid to make you separate in the dugout.
“They kind of leave that up to the team of how we handle it with each other on celebrations. We don’t shake hands at the end. We just kind of get in a circle and break down for them.”
Kortbawi attempted to keep in touch with her club players during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We would get together and have a team Zoom meetings,” she recalled. “They kind of hung out and bonded with each other. We had them doing some hitting with their parents, hitting into nets, and they would send us videos and we would critique them and send them back to them. So that was kind of like our coaching over the winter.
“We were behind. I missed getting out on the field and getting dirty, the team bonding and getting to know each other a little more through learning the plays, learning first to third and just getting in that groove of feeling each other and trusting each other.”
Kortbawi is hopeful that softball and school can be more typical in the future.
“My hope is that we get to go back to school and we get to have a little bit of normalcy,” she said. “And we get to be a little bit more normal with softball. That’s still a big question mark.
“I think with softball the CHSAA is going to wait to see what Colorado is going to do. You have to see what is going to work and what is not going to work. We are not going to know if there is going to be a big spike.
“I do know we really won’t have a true idea of what we are going to do until July or August because you don’t want to make the wrong choice, bring all the kids back, and then have something go wrong and have kids be in harm’s way or harming a loved one that might be at home with them. So what do you do?”
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