Most high school athletes cannot duplicate the setting of a team weight room in their own home. Resources are slim and the motivation from competing with teammates is not around you at all times.
Stanhope Elmore’s William Whitlow Jr. admitted things have been different since the school shut down but he is not letting that stop him and his teammates from getting the work in.
“I had to put all of my books in my book bag from like 7th and 8th grade to do triceps extensions,” Whitlow Jr. said. “It’s kind of been fun to see what you can find. In our group chat, we can see who can create the most weird thing to use. It’s pretty fun.”
The world put a temporary hold on sporting events and whether it lasts two weeks or six months, the ramifications from that lapse are likely going to become clear as soon as teams get back on the field. The lack of spring sports is at the forefront and for good reason but there has also already been an impact on other sports in their offseasons.
“The weight room in the offseason is where you push your team and build your culture for the next year,” Stanhope Elmore football coach Brian Bradford said. “Now that we don’t have that, it really hurts what we’re trying to do for next year. We’re afraid we may lose that so we want to give them what we can so they don’t lose those gains and come back to square one.”
While many people are trying to get their feet back underneath themselves, the Mustangs want to be one of the programs still working hard as they prepare for the 2020 season. Defensive coordinator Hunter Adams is leading those efforts, sharing daily workouts to help his players stay in shape.
“We made plans to minimize any physical loss we could get,” Adams said. “We had to go to Plan C. We mapped up the muscle groups we wanted to work on and reps we wanted to get in to avoid any muscle atrophy. We set up about a six-week period so we can be in the best shape we can be.”
Adams said the workout plan was already underway but when schools shut down, he wanted to make sure his players had some guidance if they wanted to keep working at home. Adams has provided the workout plans on Twitter and through the team’s group chat to try to give the players a sense of normalcy.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Adams said. “Seeing the way our kids work, day in and day out, when they are with us, it is easy for me to believe there are more than a handful that will do this. We have a pretty good thing going at this point.”
The Mustangs are still hopeful to get some spring practice in but even if they cannot, the players still plan to put work in on their own.
“We all know what’s happening,” Stanhope linebacker Martin Toby said. “We have to wake up to the reality of it. It was a hard pill to swallow but we can’t do anything about it so we just have to stay positive and keep working hard to get ready for the season.”
Toby said it may not be as fun without the rest of the team there but he knows everyone is still putting in the work. He said some players have gotten on FaceTime already to have a virtual workout together which helps everyone stay accountable.
“You just have to have that positive strong mindset,” Toby said. “You have to put in the work the same way you do when your coaches and your teammates are around. We talk to each other to make sure we all have something to do. Even the younger kids have a positive mindset so it’s not hard.”
Whitlow Jr. said he has some resources to work with including dumbbells, a curling bar, cones and jump ropes but it is not the same as having a full set like he would have in the weight room. Some players are not fortunate enough to have any supplies on hand but Adams wants the players to get creative and he hopes that will keep them engaged with the workouts.
Adams also said he is working on an accountability system using points to measure workload, intensity and attitude for the off-campus workouts.
One of the biggest hurdles in duplicating the weight room experience is the competition and motivation from teammates to drive players to hit new personal bests. Whitlow Jr. has always been one of the team’s top athletes in the weight room and he believes that competition will still be strong even when they workout alone.
“You just have to do with the spirit of your teammates,” Whitlow Jr. said. “I know they are working to surpass me on some things. I have to think about that in the back of my mind and push the same way whether next to me or 10 miles away. You really have to hype yourself up.”
Adams said his biggest goal through this process is to make sure his players are keeping the right mindset even when they cannot be with their teammates. The workouts are a part of football but he wants his players to understand there are things bigger than that right now.
“You have to live your life as a compassionate human that puts other person’s interest all the time,” Adams said. “What can you do for others is what we look to do every day and right now, that means staying healthy and being smart about where you go.”