The question on the minds of coaches and athletic directors in the wake of the COVID-19 restrictions is how. As in, how do we keep athletes engaged and active in a time when such activity is limited?
Totino-Grace Activities Director Mike Smith has some thoughts. Smith, who is also the school’s head baseball coach, relayed some of the ideas he’s implemented to keep his players thinking like a team when there’s no baseball to be played.
“The road map is fuzzy,” he said. “You haven’t dealt with this before and you don’t know when this will end.”
The Eagles, like many, turned to the internet to bond as a team. They’ve shared online training videos and the coaches have had virtual meetings via Google Meets. And things have taken a light-hearted turn as well.
“We’ve tried to be as creative as we could. had dance contests. There’s an app that makes you look like you can dance,” Smith laughed, admitting that he had to go first to kick things off. “We did a ‘Name That Senior’, where the seniors sent us the youngest picture of each of them that had something to do with baseball and the rest of the team had to name the senior.”
The Eagles also put together a virtual “Around The Horn” video. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/p0OCo8YUjjo
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. Smith used the time to encourage his players to see the potential good that can come out of the current crisis.
“We had a big meeting, taking turns, going one-by-one, telling one positive thing that has come out of this. They talked about getting more family time together, having a little more time to do better in school work. One kid said he and his dad got in a lot of good fishing. Some kids, who had just turned 16, got more driving practice. They were awesome. It was a forum for people to share and learn the we’re only as good as the people we communicate with in our own little circle. It blows my mind how creative they were.”
Gentry Academy's Barrett Hall
Following a hockey season in which he had 24 goals and 55 points, Gentry Academy sophomore Barrett Hall put away his stick and skates, grabbed his mountain bike and found plenty of isolated trails to train, social distancing being paramount.
In 2019, Hall was ranked No. 1 nationally for 15-16 year olds and won the Midwest Mountain Biking Championship for his age group. Last year, he finished fifth in the Minnesota High School Mountain Bike Racing championships.
Here’s a little bit of what Barrett sees as he’s heading down a hill. This video was shot on a trail at Battle Creek Park on March 31: https://twitter.com/i/status/1247322530328821765
“Social distancing being practiced!” his father Rob said.
A few more worth noting
-- Minnetonka high school freshman runner Maya Mor has put together a “Virtual 5K”, in which those who sign up run 5K on their own and submit their time, where it will be posted with others in normal race format. Proceeds from the Virtual 5K go to the Twin Cities United Way’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery fund.
-- The Mankato boys lacrosse program, which combines players from all of the Mankato high schools, is using the time off to build a solid mental foundation for the players. Head coach Jamie Kunst has created player profiles on the teams’ Facebook page and started weekly meetings on the Zoom app.
“Our initial plan is to utilize the relationship we have with [the] MSU, Mankato Sports Psych [Department] and spend some time helping the players make sense of this all. We also will be offering individual sessions with our team of professionals at MSU,” Kunst wrote in an email to the Star Tribune.
“We also hope to coordinate a little TikTok video with each projected varsity player.”
-- The Blaine baseball team put together a “Stay Hungry” video, showing its players finding their own makeshift ways to train. https://youtu.be/qgvpNlgWLxQ
-- The Becker softball team stayed busy and repainted its dugout