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Turning to Tech series: Teams exploring new ways to maintain contact

Zoom, Team App, Mighty Networks among digital platforms helping athletes and coaches stay on track

Brandon Boles/BoCoPreps.com
Boulder football coach Ryan Bishop, center, would like nothing more than to get some offseason workouts in with his team, but the stay-at-home orders have led to video conferencing as the best way to continue connection.
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Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series from Brad Cochi and BoCoPreps.com on some of the ways technology is keeping those in the sports world busy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part one published March 31, and part three will on April 5.

Communication is and has always been a key component to building a successful athletic program.

But where do athletes, coaches and trainers turn when their primary mode of communication – in-person physical interaction – is taken off the table by the spread of COVID-19?

Many local members of the preps sports community are exploring new ways of using available technology to supplement that loss. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s better than nothing at all.

Boulder High football, for example, is using Zoom video conferencing to have regular check-ins between coaches and players, to do home workouts in groups, and simply to stay connected with one another during a challenging and uncertain time.

“We called them all and we’ve had some check-ins, and this Friday we’re all going to get together and do a bodyweight workout,” Panthers head coach Ryan Bishop said. “Our strength guy has put together some stuff for us to do. We also have players do check-ins with coaches and position groups, and team leaders are meeting with small groups. We’re not doing any X’s and O’s stuff yet but the kids are just chomping at the bit.

“When we’ve done these, we have some kids who haven’t seen anybody but their parents and their families for weeks so some of our check-ins that are supposed to be around 10 minutes go to over an hour.”

Photo courtesy Ryan Bishop
Boulder head football coach Ryan Bishop, top left, meets with several of his student-athletes via the Zoom videoconferencing platform. (Photo courtesy Ryan Bishop)

With football being a fall sport, the Panthers’ efforts right now are focused on making up for losing out on spring camps, prep and offseason work. But Bishop also pointed out that maintaining contact with his athletes is just as much about checking in on how players are doing and making sure they’re adjusting well to new online learning platforms that have become the norm.

For spring sports that have had most, if not all, of their seasons taken away, the challenge is maintaining some semblance of a 2020 campaign. Many springs sports continue into the summer after the high school season is over, so athletes in sports like baseball, golf and track and field have to stay sharp for when they are finally allowed to compete again.

Some coaches like Maurice Henriques, who coaches Niwot track in the spring and runs the R.E.A.L. Training club program in the offseason, are lucky to have already had systems in place that make them better prepared for the current circumstances. For several years now, Henriques and his staff have been using the Team App, which allows them to post full workout plans athletes can do safely on their own that include video tutorials, or articles to other track-related things. Similarly, athletes can also upload videos of their technique for feedback from coaches.

“We have our Team App and we have everything on there that you can think of,” Henriques said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and we do it all year long. Our motto is, ‘No excuses,’ and the idea is that there’s always something you can do. It helps to communicate, keep people on track and keep people from getting discouraged. It’s (social distancing) all new for everybody and we’re all making adjustments, but it’s kind of cool that we already had that in place.”

Everything is optional, but the information is there.

With pools everywhere being shut down, elite prep swimmers like Broomfield’s Harrison Lierz are stuck on land for the foreseeable future. But Lierz has committed to swimming at the University of Tennessee next season, so sitting around and getting out of shape in the meantime isn’t an option.

Elevation Athletics, where Lierz trains year-round, has a solution. The club program uses Mighty Networks, an app designed for online courses, businesses and communities, to help keep its athletes on track by posting rowing, biking and running workouts for the group.

“I wouldn’t really know what else to do,” Lierz said. “It’s just a way to stay fit and stay in shape. We also have a book of the month and a book group every Wednesday, which also helps provide us with what we need to get through this. We’re used to seeing everyone every day and working out in a pool for two hours a day and this is all something we’ve had to adapt to over the past few weeks.

“This definitely helps.”