With the continuance of closures due to the COVID-19 virus, there are still athletes around the country who are participating in at-home workouts to stay busy, fit, and motivated. I was able to catch up with a few of the football athletes from Fort Worth Nolan Catholic to see how their coaches at-home workout challenges have been working for them during this extended absence from spring practices and school.
I took time to virtually interview athletes from various classes to discuss what difficulties they have faced since COVID-19 halted spring practices, how the challenges have helped to keep them motivated, their contact with their coaches and teammates, preparation for the 2020 season and what advice they might have for any athletes that may be losing motivation.
Noah Patty, senior TE/WR, committed to University of Louisiana-Monroe
Patty believes that the at-home challenges from his coaches are extremely beneficial. “Those who don’t go and get it will be exposed,” Patty said. Patty believes that since these workouts are essentially on your own, if you’re not getting out and getting the work done then you’re not doing yourself any favors. “You either get out and get it regardless of the circumstances or get left behind.”
Patty is in contact with his college coaches as well and has been getting workouts from them as well. Patty says the workouts are beneficial, but if you’re only doing the workouts and calling it a day then you’re going to be behind. “You’ve got to find a way to get weight training in, too.”
Patty’s advice for other athletes is to use time as an asset right now: “Utilize this time to get ahead. Find weights and lift them. Go to the edge of the earth to find them if you have to. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get ahead.”
Darrell Mitchel, junior DB
Mitchel believes that the biggest difficulty since COVID-19 halted spring workouts has been adjusting to change. “There’s been a lot going on and spring ball helps us get evaluated as athletes. It’s hard knowing that’s gone, but we just have to keep pushing and trust that everything is going to work out.” Mitchel mentioned that the athletes have stayed in contact with their coaches and teammates through regular group calls where they can watch film together and even learn plays.
“The workout challenges at home have been very helpful,” Mitchel said. “I have been able to still go to the field and get a lot of work in. I’m just adjusting and making the best that I can out of what I’ve got.”
Mitchel’s advice to athletes that might be burning out is to have faith and keep working. “This will all be over soon and we will all be back on that field doing what we love to do in no time.”
JD Burnett, junior DE, OLB
“The biggest difficulty is not being able to get the in-person practice and communication with your team,” Burnett says. He thinks it is still important to go over plans on the phone and online, but it doesn’t come close to comparing to the experience you get when you’re practicing together in person. Burnett gives a big shout-out to his coaches who have been working overtime to be motivational. Burnett says the coaches have been “sending out new things every day so we [the athletes] stay on top of things and try new drills.” Burnett believes that the challenges help better the team and helps them come together as a team despite the social distancing. The coaches and athletes keep in contact with each other through meetings not only to discuss routes, plays, and workouts, but also to check on each other and make sure that they’re all doing okay during these uncertain times. “It has been helpful in a lot of ways- making sure everyone is staying safe and stays connected instead of not communicating.”
Burnett believes that the at-home challenges have been extremely beneficial. “Anything that you do that includes any improvement to yourself is beneficial,” said Burnett. “It will be an advantage for you in future times.” Burnett also mentioned that the challenges help the team play a part in each others’ workouts. “Once you have a trend going you are going to have a team full of athletes who are working together towards getting better.”
Burnett’s advice for other players is to think about your game as a personal project and what you want your created player to be. “Build up to be that 99 overall and best player by putting in the time and work. Treat yourself to the same standards and just attack the workouts. Putting in the work now will play out when you get back to the field or court.”
Jimmy Taylor, junior QB
Taylor is having a tough time accepting that there won’t be any spring practices. “I will not have a spring practice for my junior year which greatly affects my recruiting as well as our team bonding and knowledge of plays.” Despite the challenge, though, Taylor has been able to throw with a handful of his receivers. “[Throwing] has been an advantage because we are able to learn plays and discuss our questions. Being able to throw with my wideouts assures me that we will have our routes crisp.” Taylor has also been in contact with his coaches through meetings.
Taylor believes that the challenges from the coaches help him remain focused on his every day life. “They remind me that even though we are stuck in the confines of our house, we can always work to get better and to be the best that we can be.” Taylor says that the challenges are “beyond beneficial” since he is able to do what he did in school at home. “I am able to become stronger, faster, and tougher due to the workouts we are given. It has really helped me digest the COVID-19 pandemic and produce a strong work ethic.”
For anyone who might be losing their motivation, Taylor has solid words of advice: “The day we stop working is the day we accept defeat. Do not let this virus break our stride and take away the pride we have in each other as well as in ourselves. Keep working!”
Irene Ngabonziza, junior WR
“The biggest difficulty for me has definitely been missing that team environment,” Ngabonziza said in regards to missing spring practices. The 5-foot-10 wide receiver mentioned missing weight room sessions, joking, and running routes with his teammates. “You don’t realize how important those things are until you can’t do them.”
Ngabonziza believes that the at-home challenges from his coaches have helped him keep a routine for working out. They help him stay on track for what he’s working towards. “The workouts are a fun way to kill time at home while still getting in work.” Ngabonziza believes that the at-home challenges are intense enough to keep the athletes working hard. Ngabonziza mentioned that the team working hard during this absence will help separate hem from the competition come fall when the 2020 season begins. “This will be a good chance for us to grow and find out more about ourselves,” Ngabonziza said.
His advice for fellow athletes is to keep pushing forward: “Just because we have this pandemic, don’t lose sight of your goals. This should be the perfect time for you to build new habits and skills to help fulfill your goals.” Ngabonziza believes this is the perfect opportunity for athletes to distance themselves from the competition by pushing themselves since not everyone is taking advantage of that right now.
Curlee Thomas IV, sophomore WDE
Thomas believes that this spring would have been a huge opportunity for him to showcase his talents and ability. So, his biggest difficulty has been not being able to show his ability in a new environment. “Due to COVID-19 I’m not able to show how much work I have put in and how dominant I will be in the fall.” Thomas said.
“I’m always motivated,” Thomas mentioned, “but the challenges Coach KJ and Coach Beaudin have been giving us allows for more fun and creativity with the workouts. We have a special group of coaches here at Nolan.” Thomas has remained in contact with his position coaches to breakdown film and correct any mistakes as well as improve their strengths. “We also call out each other on Twitter and do weightlifting challenges to push each other.”
Thomas believes that the challenges are huge in shaping the 2020 season. “We aren’t able to do a lot of the workouts and drills we normally do, but the challenges allow us to stay in shape, get bigger, get faster, and get stronger so that when we do come back from this we are ahead of other football programs.”
The biggest advice Thomas has for fellow athletes is to remember that this break isn’t a vacation to catch up on your Call of Duty or other console games. “If you want to be the best, you have to do things you need to do rather than the things you want to do,” Thomas said. “My grandfather always told me: the cream always rises to the top. To be the cream you have to work. There’s no way around it.”
Thomas has been active in posting videos of his workouts on social media and keeping up with the challenges. Everything from creative workouts to weight lifting. There was even a time when he tilled the soil for his grandfather to plant crops and used it as an opportunity to grow stronger.