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Post Adjusting to the new normal

Wednesday March 25, 2020

Interesting piece from Seth Emerson about the resources (and limitations) of keeping Georgia’s football program up and running while we are all asked to be at home. Athletes, along with all other students, must rapidly adapt to online courses. They won’t have access to on-campus facilities for meals and conditioning (unless they are rehabbing an injury.) Communication between staff and players is governed, and detail-obsessed coaches won’t have the kind of oversight they’re used to. At this time of year before spring practice the contact with players is primarily done by the strength and conditioning staff. Even that contact is regulated.

There are some exceptions, as (Georgia compliance director Will) Lawler explained: “If they ask and say: ‘Hey, I’m here at my house, I don’t want to go to a gym, can you give me some body-weight workouts?’ or something like that. You could provide it to them. But you can’t require it. There’s no reporting back. There’s no any of that. There’s some flexibility. This thing kind of moves pretty quickly.”

My first thought on reading that quote: it sure is nice to have not one but two experienced strength coaches on staff now. Both Scott Sinclair and Scott Cochran have years of experience developing individualized offseason workouts for football teams. Now that’s all Georgia, or any team, is allowed in terms of player development. With gym equipment likely limited or unavailable altogether, creativity will be tested. I know Cochran was brought in to be an on-field coach, but I would expect him to be a valuable resource for Sinclair in this unusual time.

Cochran’s expertise could be valuable in another way. The offseason program requires steady monitoring and accountability even for the most self-disciplined athletes. Now at home and isolated from that support structure, it’s easy for things to slide and bad habits to form. Cochran hasn’t had much time to get to know the team, but one of his key roles at Alabama was as the motivator and the guy that kept players pushing past their limits. His energy and constant reinforcement will help keep things moving in the right direction.

Did you see the video featuring several coaches encouraging students to finish out the spring semester? An appropriate and necessary message for the student body of course, but there’s a self interest too. The NCAA might come up with all sorts of waivers and exceptions by the time students return to campus, but for now they’ll have to be in good academic standing and on track. With the spring and summer semesters moving online, much of the academic calendar will have passed by the time football players report back. Without on-campus tutoring, class checks, counseling, and other academic resources, the need for academic discipline and self-motivation while in isolation will be as great as it is for player development.

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