Building a Football Team in 2020

There might not be any games on the schedule this fall, but for the Gettysburg College football team that lack of competition has opened the door for an increased focus on improving techniques and the ability to invest in new methods of training.
The days of seeing 100-plus players scattered in various position groups at Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium have fallen by the wayside in the time of COVID. Instead, the coaches are utilizing new training areas scattered around campus and innovative resources to guide their student-athletes both on campus and off.
For the on-campus cohort of roughly 45 football student-athltees, the training setup has evolved past the usual boundaries inside the Jaeger Center and the field. In order to maintain social distancing, equipment ranging from squat racks to benches to kettlebells was moved from the Ortenzio Fitness Room to a section of Hauser Field House. The changed has allowed the general campus population freedom to utilize the fitness room and lifting area inside Jaeger, while giving varsity student-athletes the opportunity to spread out and engage safely as a team in the field house.
“When we moved the strength equipment over to Hauser that opened space in Ortenzio where the free weight equipment was before,” noted Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and Assistant Football Coach Mike Hoyt. “We left some free weights in Ortenzio for the general student population, but it allowed us more space to spread out the cardio equipment which tends to be more popular with most of campus.”
Physical distancing and masking is required with additional precautions in place for entry into the facilities, including temperature checks and review of the student-athlete’s Medicat portal for symptoms. Heavier lifts such as squats and bench press require two spotters on either side of the bar, while the “lifter” is responsible for wiping down the equipment and weights after completion of the set.
In addition to Hauser, training has expanded to the grass fields behind Musselman Stadium, where heavy tires, sand bags, and water-filled PVC pipes add to the training regimen. Some of the normal physical spaces remain, with the football team and other varsity squads conducting SPARQ training on turf and grass fields.
In the early phases of returning to competition, workout groups were limited to 10 individuals including a coach. That meant the strength coaches and football coaches were busy seeing to the needs of 4-5 different groups of athletes each day, sometimes twice with scheduled practices on lift/cardio days. Recently, the number of individuals in a workout group was expanded to 25.
The objectives of training have taken on new meaning as well this fall. Instead of finding that balance between weight training and practice time in an effort to peak on game day, the plan favors higher volume over time. This should lead to improved technique and increased endurance, with expected small peaks after 6-8 weeks.
“We are treating this more like the offseason/spring,” said Hoyt. “During the season we cut the volume down due to the amount of practice time on the field; we still want to get stronger and more explosive, but we don’t want them to over train.”
While the on-campus cohort which includes primarily freshmen and a handful of upperclassmen continue to have access to campus facilities, the off-campus athletes numbering 70-plus remain in constant contact with the coaches through the workout app Team Buildr and Google Classroom.
Hoyt and his staff are utilizing the new technology to guide the team – both on and off-campus – on a daily and weekly basis. Workouts are arranged for each day and can be designed around parts of the team (offense/defense), positions, and on/off-campus groups. All student-athletes can go through the list of workouts and check them off as they finish, adding in the prescribed weight for some exercises or their own numbers.
Additionally, coaches can track every student-athlete’s progress from the initial workout to the most recent training session. The players have the ability to preview videos demonstrating correct technique, both through TeamBuildr and the team’s Hudl account, which features videos specific to on-campus facilities.
The investment in the online setup has given the coaching staff more flexibility in creating workouts and tracking progress, while promoting more competition from the student-athletes themselves.
“Teambuildr and Google Classroom allow me to stay on top of the different groups,” stated Hoyt. “The online platform allows me to adjust workouts for those at home that don’t have gym access.
“Most athletes are competitive and want to out-perform one another especially at the same position,” he added. “We have a leader board for each position where we put the top three performers in six different categories related to strength, explosiveness, speed and agility. We also have an ‘Iron Bullet Club’ where players that hit certain benchmarks in their 1RM’s will make the club.”
From six in the morning until darkness falls across the campus, the football team and other student-athletes can be found banging weights in Hauser Field House, running on treadmills in the Jaeger Center or on the track, or practicing with their teammates on turf and grass fields. The commitment is evident across all the programs as eyes turn toward a potential return to play in the spring.
“You can have the best training program there is, but it comes down to the amount of time and effort the players put into the program,” said Hoyt. “If they dedicate themselves to what we are doing in our strength and conditioning program, both while on campus and when they are at home, we will be in great condition to compete and be injury free in the spring.”

This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.

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