Monitoring practice from afar

Sabrina Jiles, Staff Reporter

SPU Women’s Soccer Coach Arby Busey in a huddle during a socially distant practice preparing for the postponed season. (Brandon Bee)

When organizing a practice, coaches look to improve their athletes’ skills and prepare for the next game or meet. This may be through contact work or a simulation of the upcoming competition. With the new regulations implemented in response to COVID-19, Seattle Pacific University coaches are learning to adjust their coaching during the pandemic.

The use of masks, practicing in small pods, and trying to remain at a social distance of six feet made practices in the SPU athletic department look different than in other years.

For the men’s basketball team, practices are focusing more on skill work than a normal practice around this time.

“We’ve done a lot of ball handling stuff to warm up. We’re getting into different concepts and things in our offense. We’re always getting shots up. That’s so important—to shoot. We’re incorporating a little bit of strength and conditioning into what we’re doing more so than we have,” stated SPU Men’s Basketball Coach Grant Leep.

A practice on the court is likely to look different than a practice on the field.

“Normally we’re competing in cross country at this time. The fall training is different because we’re not preparing for races the same way. So we have to shift what we focus on during this portion of the year,” stated SPU Track Coach Chris Reed.

The coaches touched on some of the restrictions that have been imposed due to the COVID-19 regulations put in place by King County.

“The amount of live play that we can do is very restricted. It’s a lot of distance work in lines, individual move types of things,” stated Leep.

The guidelines are not just limited to contact in practice, but also the number of people allowed to practice in the same group is limited.

“We’re only able to practice in pods no bigger than five. Right now, instead of having one big team practice with 45 athletes, we have 10 to 11 pods that practice throughout the day,” stated Reed.

A common theme for coaching are the challenges posed during this season in comparison to past seasons. With athletes working in smaller pods to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, coaches are trying to balance time between the groups and positions.

SPU Track and Field Coach Karl Lerum oversees athletes during a practice on Wallace field. (Jacky Chen)

The coaches on the men’s basketball team have been trying to focus on demonstrating drills that can be done by all of the four practice pods in the gym. Coach Leep says that it has been a struggle to change how the practices are formatted, but he credits the team’s coaching staff.

“Most mornings we have one coach per basket with those pods and then trying to be smart about how often we rotate, how we rotate. Just to make sure we’re following the safety protocols that are in place,” stated Leep.

In some cases, it can be more challenging to coach in these pods, due to the way they are assembled. A pod does not have as much diversity between freshman and veterans, because the pods are organized by living space and location. Currently one of the women’s distance pods is composed of all freshmen.

Reed said that there are a lack of models for freshmen to look up to during the practices. The pods have forced the freshmen to learn more of the new things on their own, in comparison to past years.

“So much of what the freshmen are doing, is self driven in a way. Normally we have 10 juniors and seniors that can kind of show the way and be the guiding light and that’s been the obvious challenge,” stated Reed.

Even with the challenges that the coaches have faced this season, they are being optimistic and looking at the positives that come from the modified practices.

“We need it. We need the skill work, we need to get back in the gym, the fitness, those types of things. Just the intensity, how hard we need to work and get our stuff done. So all that stuff is just fine, it’s just not what we’re used to,” stated Leep.