The COVID-19 virus has been a popular topic of conversation since the first American case back in January of 2020. To this day, it is still a very popular topic to converse over because of the new inconveniences within our day to day lives. These same inconveniences are apparent in collegiate football and other collegiate sports which have unfortunately altered the way teams practice, exercise, study film and ultimately play the game. Before the virus hit the United States, football teams all across the nation were meeting for film study at the crack of dawn, weight lifting multiple hours a week, and conducting rigorous practices to prepare for the opponent. This schedule of film, weightlifting, and practice has been perfected by most teams to the point to where it becomes a lifestyle. This rigorous schedule in-season can result in over 40 hours of football related obligations per week such as film, workouts, practices, mandatory meals, mandatory tutoring sessions, and meetings with members of the football staff (doctors, athletic trainers, nutritionists, etc.). So what happens to this detailed schedule that demands for numerous daily physical interactions when a pandemic like the one that we are currently living through hits?
The first obstacle to overcome is team and position meetings. Before Covid-19, team meetings would usually be held about once a week depending on the team and the type of season (in-season or off-season). During the pandemic, all meetings at first were conducted online through Zoom and once the team has provided multiple unanimous negative tests, the meetings are then held in person, but with more space between players. This means that for some schools, team meetings would have to occur on the practice field because that is the only place that has enough space for all players to be present and following the strict Covid-19 guidelines.
The second obstacle is being able to achieve efficient workouts while following the guidelines. This means that there are no longer large groups of players that will be lifting together. Instead, the teams are split up into much smaller groups so that there are fewer players in the weightroom at a given time. Since the team is following the guidelines, face masks are also worn during the workout which is a huge inconvenience because it is very difficult to breathe. The players are also not allowed to make their own recovery shake because that involves players touching products after each other which would increase the risk of spread. Since the players are not allowed to be in close proximity to each other, the players workout as an individual with their individual weight rack. This makes it very difficult to achieve heavy lifts, which are very beneficial in an offseason, because there is no spotter. The players also have to rack and un rack their weights which can become exhausting to do alone during an extensive workout.
The third and most difficult obstacle to overcome as a football team is being able to practice as a team. This is the most important aspect of any football team because it gives the coaches a gauge of where certain players are at in terms of individual development and readiness to play on the collegiate stage. In order for a team to best prepare for a game, there needs to be all players present to see the full picture of what the team will look like as well as physical contact such as a typical football collision. These aspects of a beneficial football practice are very hard to achieve while still maintaining 100% safety of all players and staff. This was combated through many months of daily testing to make sure that the team is free of the virus. Once the team proves that there are no cases, then practicing can be held assuming that the football team will have very few interactions with people from outside the team.
The Covid-19 virus has been very difficult to deal with as people of society as well as members of collegiate sports. Football is one of the harder collegiate sports to maneuver through a pandemic like this due to the sheer size of a team and the necessity of having physical contact. Teams all across the nation are constantly evolving the structure of their program when new information about the virus is received. Much like in a game of football, we have to keep adapting and overcoming.