One obstacle facing collegiate athletic departments during the coronavirus pandemic is how to ensure student athletes maintain their current levels of fitness. Local strength and conditioning coaches have begun utilizing video conferencing, social media and apps to stay connected to their teams.
“We had to get creative and being creative was something that’s going to support all of our students athletes on campus and not just make this something where the athletes are just getting sweaty and just checking a box and saying I’m exercising, but still working towards a common goal which for us is winning conference championships,” said UIW strength and conditioning director, Bret Huth.
In addition to the Cardinals, UTSA and St. Mary’s University – among other local schools – have begun utilizing virtual training tools to reach their student athletes. The UIW strength and conditioning department has created a five-day plan that focuses on speed and power development with accompanying videos on social media to demonstrate proper form.
“We wanted to put out a united front and also, we wanted to support our brand, let San Antonio, Southland Conference and the rest of the country know that UIW is working,” said Huth.
St. Mary’s also employs a weekday plan where student athletes can access the workout of the day via an app and can complete an additional weekly tabata-style zoom workout with their team.
“It’s not really about the workout, it’s really just an opportunity for them to connect every week,” said St. Mary’s University Director of Sports Performance, C.J. Richardson. “That’s the hardest part about all of this – you can find a way to get a workout in wherever you are, whatever the situation, but to actually be able to connect with your teammates and connect with your coaches, to me that’s the most important part of all of this.”
Whereas the Rattlers program utilizes a lot of body weight movement, the Cardinals try to incorporate household items into their strength training days. Coach Huth said his team has had to think outside of the box to find a wide array of accommodations since his athletes will have different tools available to them. The Twitter videos illustrate how items such as paint cans or milk jugs can be used to facilitate the workout.
“How can we achieve some sort of training adaptation while prescribing something to 23 varsity teams where all these athletes have different things around the house and some of them may have barbells, and dumbbells and kettle bells and others may only have dog food and bags of groceries, back packs, canned food?” Huth asked.
Both coaches said the workouts themselves are part of the consistency and structure their student-athletes are accustomed to and are serving an important need. In addition to creating the fitness programming, the app also allows Richardson to track the wellbeing of his students during the stay-at-home order, a task he does not take lightly.
“It’s really important for us to continue to track their wellbeing during this time. Mental health is becoming a big issue," he said. "People are struggling with stress and anxiety over all this stuff so definitely want to make sure we’re keeping in touch with them on those things.”