Every athletics program at Harding has had to completely reorganize their training programs to accommodate social distancing and contactless practices. In order for any student athlete to practice, they must submit a form each morning recording their temperature and close contacts from the previous day. Most coaches are considering failure to complete these forms as an absence from that day’s practice.
The school, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Great American Conference (GAC) each have a variety of rules for athletics this season, and so do the coaches for the teams.
“We are jumping at the bit to play, but we know that we have to do it the right way,” head women’s soccer coach Greg Harris said.
The team is split into three groups of eight to nine players for each practice. Following a normal training session, the women’s team continues to lift and do skill training in these small groups. While the team has not been able to play a normal match of soccer, Harris feels confident in the technical level of each player. However, he said that the hardest part of the restrictions is not knowing the dynamic of the girls on the field.
“We haven’t been able to play two-versus-two or four-versus-four, so it’s hard to know how they will blend together,” Harris said.
One way that many sports teams are reworking training sessions is through group training.While the soccer team meets in small groups, the track and field team is sectioned by events. These sections are divided throughout the weight room and the field, depending on their practice for that day.
“It’s difficult to build a bond together if you’re not in close proximity all the time,” sophomore jumper Jenna Akins said. “It’s just a different dynamic.”
Team dynamic is vital to the overall success of each team, no matter the sport. The rhythm of the team is highly dependent on how well the individuals blend together; the more unified the team can be, the higher success rate they will have. Because of this the football team has initiated various team-building activities throughout the semester.
“We do stuff with each other all the time, like a Madden tournament or a service project,” freshman Spencer Helms said. “Our coaches really encourage us to put our phones away when we’re together. They really tell us to engage with each other and really get that brotherhood.”
The football team is another team that divides based on position and stays in small groups of no more than 12 during field practices. On and off the field, or in the weight room, the coaches are trying to engage their groups as best as possible.
“They have turned everything into a competition, like which group can all turn their forms in the earliest, or little competitions in the weight room,” Helms said.
Each program at Harding is facing the dilemma of how to be efficient in practices and training in order to keep their athletes prepared for the next season.