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Sports

Brown Athletics implements new socially-distanced practice guidelines

Varsity teams find ways to practice safely despite COVID-19 pandemic

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Brown athletic fields are sprayed with circles six feet apart to help students and athletes maintain social distancing, and weight rooms are limited to one person per lifting station, with masks required for the entirety of a workout.

When Brown entered Phase 2 of its Healthy Brown reopening plan Oct. 5, student-athletes started in-person practices for the first time since the University shut down in March. Although athletes can make use of all athletic fields and weight rooms once again, there are new restrictions in place for sports teams while practicing to ensure their health and safety. 

Each field is split up into four quadrants, and teams are only allowed to use each quadrant for up to an hour, according to the Erickson Athletic Complex Fields and Outdoor Tennis Court Reopening Plan. This structure helps minimize contact within a team as athletes are limited to being in these quadrants only with their respective pod members. 

Within each field, there are spray painted circles and cones each located six feet apart. Athletes can use these markers to help them maintain social distancing. In the weight room, only one person is allowed at each lifting station with a six-foot social distancing rule firmly in place. All individuals are asked to wipe down each item after its use. In addition, all athletes must wear a mask during the entirety of their workout.  

Various teams, especially high-contact sports teams, have adjusted their training regimens to follow these safety guidelines. Football Head Coach James Perry ’00 has navigated practices through the restrictions of Phase 2. “We split each pod based on position and work the guys tirelessly through on-field and weight room conditioning,” he said. “We implement this every other day while still maintaining a balance with full team Zoom (meetings).” 

With players unable to participate in contact drills, heavy focus has been placed on advancing the “on-field IQ” of the team, Perry said. Players in different positions take on the perspectives of other positions on the field through film study and play installments. This allows for interaction with all coaches on the staff — and not just their primary position, he added. Still, players are limited to seeing only two coaches during in-person practices. Linebacker Davis Bak ’21 said this helps the team improve their craft as an entire unit. It creates a “higher sense of connectivity amongst the team even though half our team is on campus while the rest are spread amongst the entire country,” Bak said.

For now, the football team is attempting to showcase its resiliency in a world of hypotheticals and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season. “Even through the restrictions, we are getting better,” Bak said. “So when there is football, whenever that may be, I promise that Brown will be able to show the rest of the Ivy League how our motivation has really enhanced the team’s progressions.”

The men’s and women’s water polo teams have also altered their approach to practices, as they are currently unable to use the pools in the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center. Instead, they conducted their practices on dry land. Women’s water polo player Linnea Kelly ’23 noted that maintaining a sense of motivation is tantamount despite the drastic changes to their practice structure. She explained that a way to deal with this adversity is through redefining what a water polo practice looks like. “We have been able to lift a few days a week, as well as three-hour practices with the full team,” said Kelly. “A huge plus is that we have been doing a lot of yoga as a team which has been a really nice break from constantly straining our bodies in a pool.”

 Both teams conduct in-person training that is focused on circuit stations, core training and yoga according to Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Head Coach Felix Mercado. A new approach to practice that Mercado has implemented is taking a break from the sport itself and focusing on team engagement activities, such as listening to podcasts. “We have been (listening to) these ‘Deep Dives’ podcasts that have been focusing on the Last Dance documentary to help the team understand the mindsets of accountability and leadership,” he said. “It helps put emphasis on the important things we normally don’t get to focus on because we are so caught up with the tactical and training (aspects) of our sport.” 

Mercado also plans to invite Olympians to serve as guest speakers to talk with his teams about diversity. Team-building oriented practices have been the key to team unity and cohesion despite social distancing and other COVID-related restrictions, according to Mercado. “This helps ensure how we are moving in the right direction outside of the pool,” he said.

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