Planning Practices In A Covid World
I was recently asked by my Athletic Director to think about what my sport’s season could look like given the current guidelines around Covid-19. And of course, who knows if we will even have a season, but as a young Head Coach, here is to hoping! Let’s break down what practice could look like.
While we all might hope that things will go back to ‘normal,’ it is looking more and more like we will have to take alternative approaches to athletics in what we will end up calling our ‘new normal.’ At first, I lamented not having ‘normal,’ as I brainstormed I realized that we can accomplish just about everything a regular season of training would look like, but it would require me as a coach to plan appropriately to be as efficient as possible.
As I went to approach making a plan, I examined past experiences that could be altered or replicated in the new approach.
When faced with large athlete numbers and limited space, I utilized ‘stations’ to help control the chaos.
With two coaches at practice, we elected to have three stations. In any given practice, two of the three stations would have a dedicated coach, with one station allowing athletes to take more ownership themselves.
The stations were as followed (20-30 Minutes Per Station):
- Station 1: Sport Specific Training (Drill or Set 1)
- Station 2: Sport Specific Training (Drill or Set 2)
- Station 3: General Fitness Training
While our two ‘sport specific’ sessions were swimming, I use more generic terms as this can apply to other sports as well. In the ‘Sport Specific Training’ my athletes were essentially taking part in a standard ‘practice’ as we all know and love for the sport we coach.
Station 3 was a dedicated fitness session that we were able to complete with no equipment needed. The fitness station is not just a logistical tool to space kids out, but a deliberate ‘in-season’ opportunity to help student-athletes develop things like baseline strength, power, and mobility needed for both sport and life.
A Closer Look At Station 3
Station 3 was always assigned a dedicated coach at the beginning of the season. Within this fitness program, athletes were introduced to the foundational elements of training.
Over the course of the first few weeks, we spent a good amount of time at Station 3 educating athletes on proper form and technique, and eventually got everyone to the point where they could apply fundamentals to more advanced workouts on their own.
In doing so, we felt that Station 3 could transition from a coach led station to an athlete run station. With the help of the PLT4M app, athletes would tap into the instructional videos for guidance and support.
With the confidence of PLT4M’s videos answering questions and guiding athletes through workouts, I knew our coaching staff of two were now free to navigate freely among the 3 stations.
Check out how over 1,000 schools utilize PLT4M for fitness and strength and conditioning!
Applying This To Covid
Within Covid, stations present an opportunity to circulate your athletes and give them the appropriate spacing and attention they need. Because many state guidelines are suggesting to designate and organize smaller groups, being able to facilitate stations could be a huge advantage.
If necessary, I could easily disperse the athletes into 4, 5, or 6 groups, and allow staggered practice start and end times to limit the large numbers. Or if absolutely necessary, I could schedule certain groups to take days off, limiting the number of athletes on any given day of practice.
Either one of these solutions proposed, allows for the most participation with the most amount of athletes. Athletes are not forced to take excessive days off and only get to practice 2 to 3 days a week. And better yet, we do not have to make cuts to lower levels of the team to limit numbers all together (JV or Freshmen).
The process itself prevents the all or nothing mentality, and finds a creative way to get as many people as possible practicing on a consistent basis. A little different, but truly better than nothing.
Fitness Station – Possible Structures
Depending on your sport or space, you may be able to run the fitness station at practice no problem. If you consider having this station be done at home on students ‘own time’ just be mindful of the experience level of your team or athletes. Be sure to consider not just their experience level within the sport, but rather within training.
Personally, I know that given my incoming group this fall, I would prefer to have the fitness station done with my guidance, and only have it be done at home when my team is ready, or if absolutely necessary because of Covid.
When doing the program at home, I will have my athletes use the PLT4M app so that I can know that work is being completed and that they have the guidance of the instructional videos throughout training.
Covid has forced all of us as coaches to get creative and in a lot of ways it is for the better. We may not even have a season, but the best thing we can do as coaches is present opportunities that a season could potentially run for our given sports.
Many of us, including myself, sometimes make strength training an afterthought because of time constraints and logistics. Now, as we look to keep our sports teams and seasons intact, it is looking like a viable option to work efficiently within our ‘new normal.’
While you may choose a different amount of stations, or how you structure your ‘Covid Practice’, I encourage everyone to think over how fitness can become a tool for good!
It is new to all of us! Let’s work together and find a way to keep sports alive this fall.
About The Author: Doug Curtin
- Head Varsity Swim & Dive Coach
- Host Of PLT4M Chalk Talk Podcast
- Director Of Content