In a normal season, Schenectady High School varsity boys’ basketball coach John Miller would be getting together with his team six times per week and, as he put it, “not seeing my family much.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is no normal season, with the campaign on hold and school gyms, like the one at Schenectady, off limits for now. Miller is spending all sorts of time at home in Galway with his wife, Colleen, and young children James and Layna.
None of that has stopped Miller and his coaching staff from continuing to support and encourage the young men that make up the Patriots basketball program.
“We want them to know we’re side-by-side with them,” Miller said.
They’re doing that via texts, emails and Google Meet get-togethers in a combined effort to let the players know someone does indeed have their backs, and to keep their heads in the game and — on their academics.
Schenectady City School District students have been in a virtual learning mode since last spring, and Miller realizes how difficult that can be.
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“Right now it’s, ‘Don’t let your guard down. Attend classes. Crush the grades,’ ” said Miller, who is in his fourth season in the varsity job. “We don’t want them to fall in the trap of being at home. We want them to push it. That’s always been our thing. They’re doing well in an imperfect scenario.”
That scenario right now includes no practices or games for a season that is in limbo. They can’t even get in their gym for non-contact drills and fundamental work as long as the school is closed down.
“Do what you can to stay sharp,” is what Miller, varsity assistants Kacy Daus and Brian Ledbetter, JV coaches Steven Thomas and Durett Miles, and freshman coach Ben Capeless have been stressing to the players. “We are preparing as if we’re going to play because we haven’t heard otherwise. If there is no season, we have a Plan B to keep them engaged basketball-wise and academically. If we don’t play, we’re not going to stop working.”
Miller is no different than the other Schenectady school district teachers in that he has been instructing from home via Google Classroom and the Seesaw App. The William C. Keane Elementary School physical education teacher has been part of a joint instruction program that includes health, physical and sports components.
“I can’t say enough about the physical education teachers in the district at the elementary level,” said Miller, who graduated from Mohonasen High School and SUNY Cortland. “We have collaborated since we went virtual last spring. We meet weekly and talk every day. We want to give the kids the best curriculum we possibly can with what we believe is a well thought out and organized program.”