Alas, here we are. It is now October, and we find ourselves still in the middle of a pandemic with no end in sight.
Fall season was one of my favorite times as a player. You got to see the Freshmen class in its entirety, you got to see how much better everyone had gotten from the previous year, team chemistry is in the early stages of formation, and it was the foundational period for program goals. This Fall season is assuredly unlike any other in DIII history, and who knows what the Spring has in store for us all; but our sport has grown in adversity throughout its history, and we continue to do so.
I talk with coaches across the country due to the nature of my blog, and it was through one of my coaching friends that I got the inspiration for this article. I reached out to coaches across the DIII landscape to see what their institutions were doing to enable athletes to train this fall.
Programs, through careful planning, are finding success in attempting to provide the safest experience to their student athletes. The effort I have seen from institutions across the country is extraordinary, as coaching, athletic training, and health staff devised plans to effectively move DIII athletes closer to on court experiences.
Many of the approaches share similar things in common. Testing student athletes, constant mask-use indoors, health questionnaires and temperature checks before practice, etc. An overarching theme has been a phased resocialization period of teams and cohorts to maximize the effects of social distancing while monitoring the health of athletes. Many coaches referred to this as “pod work” and talked about how the constraints took the focus off 6-on-6 game like training to more fundamental skill work. Many coaches were happy to have this, and I am not surprised why.
College teams have 14-20 athletes at any given time on a roster. Being able to give one on one attention to specific athletes to focus on form and technique is hard enough during a regular season, and even harder when your season is focused on beating other teams with your best line-up. The pod work sessions, anecdotally, seem to be allowing coaches to give more specific technical instruction to individual athletes due to the smaller nature of pod practices.
Even more encouraging, at least to me, was seeing the vast amount of participation from athletes in playing pick-up games (doubles, quads) or training outside during the early fall weather. Instagram would be flooded by stories of teams putting in work on grass courts most weeks from late august to late September (shout out to the Instagram managers thinking nobody was watching those!). Everyone wants to play, everyone is hungry for volleyball, and guys are going out of their way to make the best of a bad situation.
This update does not come without warning. With as much work as has been done to ensure an athletic experience, Covid can take away all the progress that teams have made. Infections can shut down all athletic activity, and some programs have had to pause due to case counts amongst student athletes.
This is a Fall unlike any other. I truly commend programs across the country for doing everything they can to protect their teams and campuses. With discipline and focused effort, they are providing an experience for students while maintaining the fight against the pandemic. I ask everyone to do the same, so that we may get back on the court sooner rather than later.
Let us know what your team is doing to train during Covid, follow us on Twitter and Instragram @FrogJumpVball and gives us a shout! Ribbet.