Student-Athletes Stay the Course in Summer Training

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Empty summer training facilities

College athletics came to a grinding halt this spring with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the possibility of spreading the novel coronavirus through close contact, spring sports seasons ended abruptly, fall seasons have been postponed or outright canceled and winter and spring intercollegiate competition is waiting in the balance.

Yet, the uncertainty hasn’t precluded student-athletes from training.

Though most teams provide individual summer workout plans to their players, those typically involved with sports camps have had to adapt. Working with the campers would give them the opportunity to continue working together. This summer, however, camps were canceled, and student-athletes were sent home.

Summer training, instead, looked like joining local summer leagues or watching online seminars and game footage in addition to following the plans crafted by coaches.

Women’s soccer goalkeeper Angelina Martin said she stayed motivated by watching recordings of her past games to find areas she could improve. “Even though we don’t know how everything will play out due to the pandemic,” she said, “I want to make sure I am ready for my seasons as an upperclassman.”

Chapman Harwood, one of the three men’s basketball team captains, said the team held each other accountable. “A lot of the motivation over the summer has honestly been from the teammates. … We have all talked a lot throughout the summer, and we (have talked about) each other’s workouts.” But the basketball team didn’t limit themselves to athletics. They also shared lessons from Scripture, “almost like a little Bible study,” said Harwood.

The volleyball team has also continued to meet every week as a team via Zoom.

“We are actually doing pretty much the same type of strength and conditioning that we do most summers,” said head volleyball coach Vickie Denny. “For those players who cannot get to a gym, we have alternate workouts for them. Several of my players are also getting into summer rec leagues and helping with club practices and playing some beach doubles. It really just depends on what part of the country they are in that dictates how they can work out.”

Volleyball player Victoria Glaze said she was motivated the most by the team’s theme: “That in all things (Christ) is preeminent.” While Glaze has been home, she has been able to work out with former teammates. “I have realized that there are so many young girls that look up to me,” she said. “I want them to work their hardest and do their best to glorify God and use sports as a platform to reach others, and I hope the way I work motivates them to do that.”

Coaches hope their teams learn from this odd time in our history.

Women’s soccer head coach Chris Carmichael said, “Any type of challenge always builds character in a positive way. It may not be the most fun situation to go through, but in the end, they will have a greater ability to deal with hardships and to lean on friends, family and God for support.”

Coach Landon Bright said he hopes his cross country and track & field athletes will learn “to not take competition for granted. When you are in college and racing all the time, it’s easy to forget that your racing career is a short window. Once you graduate or something like this happens, those opportunities get minimized, so having the outlet to push yourself against other competition is a unique experience and should be appreciated even though it’s really challenging.”

Fall practice schedules have also been altered to begin after students arrive Aug. 14–15.

“It has been a blessing to see how the players have responded to this pandemic,” said Denny. “I think for many of them, being home with their families has helped them learn a new appreciation for their parents and siblings. We have discussed how to take whatever situation you find yourself in and not just surviving but actually thriving.

“Another area I think they are learning about deals with priorities, what is most important. When volleyball is suddenly taken away, what do you have left? Relationships. First your relationship with God and then with one another. We have been emphasizing the need to continually be touching base with one another, praying for one another and just (being) there for one another.

“Hopefully when we do get back on the court there will be an excitement and passion that we still get to play the game we love, but in the meantime let’s make the best of the situation we find ourselves in and invest in one another.”