How the Sky are preparing for shortened WNBA season amid pandemic

The Sky’s preparation for the season ramped up this week, as they welcomed back their out-of-market players to begin individual workouts at Sachs Recreation Center, their practice facility in Deerfield, coach James Wade said.

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Ann Crosby discusses how the Sky are preparing their players for this year’s unprecedented season.

Chicago Sky

The circumstances of the 2020 WNBA season, which is scheduled to start late next month in Bradenton, Florida, have left some players on edge.

Not only are players concerned about contracting the coronavirus or wanting to use this time to focus on social-justice issues, but some are also worried about the little time they have to prepare for the shortened season.

‘‘I don’t feel ready,’’ Gabby Williams said last week. ‘‘I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get ready, but you have to start somewhere.’’

In an ideal world, Sky director of basketball operations Ann Crosby, who doubles as the team’s strength and conditioning coach, said a three-week training camp would give players ample time to prepare for the season. (The Sky previously were scheduled to have a 19-day training camp before this season.) But given the time constraints of this season, Crosby knows that might be ‘‘unrealistic.’’

‘‘We’ve been really upfront with the players, saying: ‘Hey, this is going to be crazy. You could be called to come in next week, so stay in shape,’ ’’ said Crosby, who gave players specialized at-home workouts while in quarantine. ‘‘They’ve been running, swimming, biking, lifting what they can, body-weight [workouts] . . . so I’m not too terribly worried.’’

The Sky’s preparation for the season ramped up this week, as they welcomed back their out-of-market players to begin individual workouts at Sachs Recreation Center, their practice facility in Deerfield,coach James Wade said.

For some players, such as Williams, this was the first time they had shot a basketball on an indoor court since March.

‘‘We haven’t been playing basketball for three or four months, then they’re going to expect us to get into basketball shape in two or three weeks,’’ said Williams, who also said that, for some players, this is the longest break ever between seasons in their professional career. ‘‘It’s scary to think about the amount of injuries that could come from that.’’

Crosby said the Sky have been doing everything they can to minimize injuries despite the quick turnaround. During the workouts, players had individual assessments based on their injury history. From there, Crosby developed a personalized program for them based on their greatest needs.

It’s worth noting the practices look very different from past seasons because the Sky are taking extra safety precautions. Players are required to wear masks and gloves when entering the facility. They also have to bring their own basketballs, which Sky personnel disinfect before and after each session.

‘‘It’s pretty crazy, considering what they’re used to,’’ Crosby said. ‘‘We also do strength-and-conditioning stuff outside at the beach.’’

Off the court, the Sky implemented strict quarantine guidelines to try to limit players’ possible exposure to the virus.

Players are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, but they’re asked to wear gloves and masks and practice social distancing if they must go out, Crosby said.

Each player has her own hotel room with a kitchenette, and the team asked the hotel to clean the rooms every three days rather than daily.

Crosby doesn’t want to minimize the valid concerns players have about this season, but she hopes they will find comfort in each other.

‘‘Once we get them all together, it’ll calm them down, knowing they can lean on each other,’’ she said. ‘‘They’re all in support of one another.’’

Even though the deadline for opting out of the season passed Friday, who will be making the trip to Bradenton remains unknown. Rosters are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks as a panel of physicians works to determine who will be medically exempt from the season, ESPN reported.

A start date for training camp, which will also take place in Florida, hasn’t been determined, a team spokesperson said.

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