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Fall coaches forced to adjust to changed spring schedule

By Paul Cifonelli – Sports Editor

When news broke on March 13 that spring sports were canceled, many people thought about the baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field athletes who had their seasons ended. While they were the most immediately impacted, as they spent the fall and beginning of the spring semester preparing for the season, they weren’t the only athletes who were.

In addition to the spring athletes not having a regular season, fall athletes do not have the opportunity to participate in a spring season. Fall coaches use their spring seasons to improve their team without having to worry about preparing for an opponent, according to The College at Brockport football head coach Jason Mangone.

Brockport football head coach Jason Mangone (above, center) watches his team practice during the fall with some of the quarterbacks. Instead of working with his players this spring on improving their skills, Mangone is making sure his team will be mentally ready for the 2020 season. (Photo credit: Brockport Athletics via Flickr)

“In the season, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing schematically versus what you’re going to see because it varies from week to week,” Mangone said. “So the spring is crucial from the standpoint of working on fundamentals. There’s no game to prepare for and you can really take leaps and bounds in terms of fundamentals and just worrying about us instead of always concentrating so much about the opponent.”

The NCAA loosened up some of its policies on coaches’ contact with players in the offseason during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, coaches can have meetings with their players to replace the practices they would have together.

“Myself and Jason Hellwig, who will be a graduate assistant this year, are doing Zoom meetings with the quarterbacks twice a week,” Mangone said. “We’re installing our offense and going over things at a very slow pace so that we can cover more details in everything so that when it comes to the fall, at least mentally, we’ve stayed on par.”

While Brockport’s teams are not having a spring season, none of the other teams in the country will either. That keeps every team consistent in that the coaches do not have time to work on skills with their players like they would normally. Mangone feels that, in football, there will be one key that will separate teams during this time.

“I think the biggest thing is going to be who has had the ability to have access to weights,” Mangone said. “We had a phenomenal eight weeks of lifting in the first half of the semester and now all of a sudden you’ve made gains and you’ve made strides physically then you go home and some people have nothing push ups, sit ups, air squats and such. The teams that have more kids that have access to strength training may have the biggest advantage of everything.”

Brockport field hockey head coach Krista Archambeau (above) claps during her team’s game against The Sage Colleges on Saturday, Sept. 10. Archambeau has been working on changing her recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo credit: Sam Cherubin via Flickr)

Spring practices are just one way college coaches can improve their team in the offseason. Recruiting is another, and that has been drastically changed due to the shutdown of campuses. Brockport field hockey head coach Krista Archambeau has had to adjust her recruiting strategy to be able to do it remotely.

“I’m waiting to hear back on two more freshmen to finish up my recruiting class for next year, so the focus now is really on the junior class, just making sure that we’re sharing the virtual tour for admissions and staying in good communication with them,” Archambeau said. “It’s hard because they want to meet the team and they want to come on campus and do all of that. So I’ve been strategic and creative with keeping them engaged virtually.”

Recruiting can be slightly awkward for student-athletes, but moving to online recruitment can increase that. Archambeau has tried her best to eliminate those odd feelings during her phone calls with prospective student-athletes.

“Obviously we can’t have on-campus visits, so all of the visits that were going to be on campus have moved to the phone,” Archambeau said. “I have not done a one-on-one Zoom with any potential student-athletes yet. I have my first one set up in a couple days and we have our junior day Sunday via Zoom. It is uncomfortable, but it’s uncomfortable for everyone. So trying to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible and making them understand that it’s OK if you feel uncomfortable and don’t want to talk that much in the beginning.”

Despite all of the new scenarios coaches are faced with during the COVID-19 pandemic, once games resume Archambeau feels like there will be an added sense of gratitude for the position collegiate student-athletes are in.

“I think [not having a spring season] will be a positive thing,” Archambeau said. “It will give everybody a greater appreciation for being together, being with their team, being fortunate enough to play the game that we love and hopefully be able to take advantage of the opportunity to play, especially after spring sports got canceled. I’m hoping that we have the chance to play our fall season.”

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