Su Ofe

Su Ofe

Stories from the Home We Love So Well: Being Virtually Athletic

The Home We Love So Well: Stories from Home Series

Being Virtually Athletic

For student-athletes, sport is central to college existence. Their teammates are their closest friends; their position is part of their college identity; their schedule is based on workouts, practices, and games in addition to classes, homework, and study halls; and even their meals are defined by the energy necessary for optimal performance. In other words, every fiber of who they are is dyed scarlet and grey.

When COVID-19 canceled sports and athletic practices this spring, student-athletes were shaken, understandably. Dreams were destroyed; plans derailed; hopes for athletic recognition and memories created by such recognition dashed.

Well … maybe at other places. But at Huntingdon, Hawk spirits soar even in the most challenging circumstances. Put up an obstacle, and they’ll find a way to fly around it or perch upon it.

“I am staying connected with my team through our GroupMe,” says Heflin, Ala., native Caitlyn Caffee ’21, softball. “We social distance through social media!”

Online forums and apps such as Zoom, Hudl, GroupMe, SnapChat, group FaceTime, and Instagram allow teams and coaches to see each other’s faces, talk, motivate each other, and share photos and videos. Many of Huntingdon’s 18 intercollegiate athletic teams meet regularly via Zoom or Hudl and use other methods to stay in touch daily.

“Coach G and Coach D [David Gurganus, head men’s basketball coach; Noah Diebel, assistant basketball coach] have set up Zoom meetings to catch up with all of us and to check in to see how our families are doing,” says Josh Dawson ’23 of Little Rock, Ark. “Of course we all text almost every day in our team group chat as well.”

“The family bond of Huntingdon and of the basketball program is incredible,” says Sam Page ’23 of Battleboro, N.C. “It’s a great feeling when you have someone affiliated with Huntingdon send you a message of encouragement or check in on you.”

Teams are everything in the student-athlete world, so isolation is not what athletes do best—with the notable exceptions of runners, wrestlers, tennis players, and golfers who compete individually but contribute to team outcomes. Still, each athlete’s mental discipline and physical stamina are fortified by support from teammates who are sharing the same challenges. “Staying in shape while being quarantined is a tough task, but with running we have the luxury to just put on running shoes and go run,” says cross country runner Alex Cole ’22 of Largo, Fla. “We all have been texting each other just for encouragement because running alone is tough.”

“It sure is different walking three seconds to my desk to attend class rather than the beautiful five-minute walk [on campus],” says baseball player Adams Bragg ’22, of Huntsville, Ala. “I walk around my neighborhood as if I was at school, and to work-out I run as if I was at practice. And to keep my mind healthy I have been playing golf, since it is one of the few things open during this time.”

Golfer Abby Cody ’22 hasn’t been so fortunate. The courses in her hometown of Brownsburg, Ind., are closed. “[The team] put together a trick shot video for fun to keep us all active with our games,” she says. “I have been chipping and swinging in my front yard in order to maintain my swing.”

“I am running six miles every day,” says soccer player Faithe Korponay ’23 of Hamden, Conn. “I also use the weights that I have at home and do an at-home workout. To maintain my skills I go to a soccer field and get touches on a ball for at least an hour a day.”

Lacrosse players Shelby Blair ’22 of Indialantic, Fla., and Ryan Campion ’23 of Pensacola, Fla., practice on equipment they have at home and, like Adams, run in their neighborhoods. “I think it’s especially important in these times to try and live a  healthy lifestyle and getting outside and working on my stick skills is a great way to do that,” says Ryan.

Of course, every Hawk has the Goodyear Workout—training routines that are badges of honor and rites of passage, designed by director of strength and conditioning Charlie Goodyear. “I create workouts for all of our athletes year-round,” says Coach Goodyear. “This includes pre-season, in-season, post-season, Christmas break, summer break, and even remote workouts during our current situation.  I also develop spring and summer training for our incoming freshmen/deposits. We use a variety of training for our 18 sports (and cheerleading), but there are many things that every athlete within our department will do and ultimately share in common.”

Each Goodyear workout is different, and each one is difficult. “There is a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual component to every training session,” says Goodyear, who had to rework all of his plans in light of the challenges presented by COVID-19.  “Not only do we not get to see the athletes, they have no gym or equipment accessible to them because every gym, fitness center, and local high school weightroom is shut down. The training I developed can be completed entirely from home, and with the use of only their bodyweight and a loaded backpack (they load it to a weight they are capable of, with miscellaneous materials—canned goods, books, packaged sand from a hardware store, etc.).”

“Coach Goodyear sent us a list of six workouts that are bodyweight/backpack workouts,” says football player Casey Peppers ’23, of Panama City Beach, Fla. “It’s pretty vital to our success in the future to stay locked in our grind, even with it being very new to all of us lacking the appropriate equipment.”

Teammate Colin Langford ’22 of Guntersville, Ala., says he appreciates that Coach Goodyear includes “videos to give us examples to do our workouts at home.”

“I am switching between the at-home workouts Coach Goodyear gave us and running/working out to my at-home series I used to do,” says Cole Simmons ’23, a soccer player from Arab, Ala.

Many athletes combine their workouts with social media for simultaneous mettle-building and motivation. “We talk to each other on a daily basis and send pictures of completing our workout for the day, whether [it is] a run around the neighborhood or doing a Goodyear workout,” says Sebastian Verger ’23, football, from Bonaire, Ga. “I’m proud of my coaches for motivating us each day and creating workouts that we can do without a gym. I miss my Hawk family and I’m looking forward to the 2020 fall semester and seeing everyone again.”

Most Hawks, like golfer Carson Whitton ’22 of Newnan, Ga., are using this period of social distancing to get stronger. He advises his fellow Hawks, “Stay positive and take this time to get better and work on your weaknesses. This is the time to get ahead.”

Josh Dawson agrees. “As athletes we should take this time while we’re at home to get better than the competition. You never know what everyone else is doing, so you have to focus on yourself and make sure you are doing what you can to get ahead.”

Hawks, being familiar with clouds, know that each one has a silver lining. The NCAA has granted a fifth year of eligibility for student-athletes who were unable to fulfill their season this year.

“It’s definitely weird not having sports on all the time or watching my friends play the sports they love,” says Alex Cole. “It has been nice, being able to be with my family and spend time that I originally wouldn’t have gotten. My brother (a senior in high school) recently committed to come to Huntingdon and run cross country, so it’s exciting to have the opportunity to run with him next year.”

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Su Ofe
Vice President
for Marketing and Communications
Huntingdon College
1500 E. Fairview Ave., Montgomery, AL 36106
(O) (334) 833-4515; (C) (334) 324-6591

ofe@hawks.huntingdon.edu
www.huntingdon.edu

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