Those of us old enough to remember the Jim Carey movie “The Truman Show” may recall this button, and the premise behind it. Carey starred in a real time reality show and didn’t know he was the star, but as the world watched on the public kept watching to see how it would all end.
The Long Pause
Without having to explain the question, we can all understand what “How’s it going to end?” means to us today. The world hasn’t shut down, but we have all entered into the “long pause” of 2020. As a high school teacher and coach, I have adapted to distance learning, social media, and far too many online meetings for my taste.
Strength and conditioning coaches have been providing any and all workouts possible to their students, athletes, and clients and I think have for the most part adapted to the circumstances. I marvel at equipment sales, resale value of home equipment, as well as the do-it-yourself equipment being manufactured in backyards across the globe. We are getting by, but the question remains. “How’s it going to end?”
Searching for Answers
The hard part in thinking about our answer is no one knows. It is the unknown that can consume and engulf coaches and athletes in how we can get back to normal. But what is our new normal going to be? Some people feel that we will not return to the old ways until scientists create a vaccine, and that could take years. Others feel that our local governments will continue to phase in lesser restrictions and reopen more services and experiences.
I have been active in a lot of meetings, calls, and research into what everybody is doing to get back to training when we are able. There are a lot of ideas out there, and a few guidelines. But there simply isn’t a blueprint for this. No guidebook or template to follow at this time and that has got people’s minds racing.
After contemplating the information that is made to the public, I have a few mainstay beliefs that I feel we can plan on if society begins to open up prior to a vaccine. Social distancing is now common language, and I feel safe in stating that should we return we will have to factor for distancing. Some high school leagues have offered up suggestions in this manner, I have seen several states refer to a generalized guideline of 10 or fewer athletes per 1,000 square feet. The National Federation of High Schools has a page listing each state’s associations, and you will see that some states are beginning to “open up.” Most state athletic associations provide ideas, but all mention that any recommendations are subject to state and local governments social distancing guidelines.
Another keystone of post-pandemic training will be sanitizing, cleaning, and sterilizing equipment, facilities, and spaces. As this pandemic grows so do our questions of how it is spread and contained. I haven’t researched this facet of a possible return as our school district has protocols and products in place and I do not want to interfere with administration on that. If certain products or options become available, I will do my best to become a part of a process that offers assistance to our district, but I will be happy to return to training in a capacity that my district allows.
Lastly, I believe that athlete readiness is going to be a priority for any person returning to training in a structured environment. By this I mean medical and physical readiness. With many businesses opening up we are learning about symptoms, possible carriers, and the legal ramifications that employers are going through before they even let employees through their business doors. I feel that we as coaches are going to need to have a process for medical clearance as well. I cannot say for certain what this is, but I feel that will be a consideration that coaches must address. Once we get through all of that we can now focus on training.
Athletic Trainers May Play a Bigger Role
States such as Kansas have provided specific guidelines pertaining to a steady buildup of strength and conditioning prior to any summer sport camps. This is important as men’s sports coaches, especially our Fall coaches, will be extremely motivated to return to action. I have a hunch that our athletic trainers are going to become a bigger part of our summer workouts than ever before. Their expertise and skills will become paramount to the athlete readiness aspect of training and monitoring these athletes for schools that are able, or maybe even required, to have them present.
In The Meantime
Until we find how this will end, I have a suggestion. Take care of yourselves as coaches and trainers because you are leaders in your communities, and it is hard to help others if you are beaten and broken down. All of us have probably gotten around to several projects around the house or yard, and it feels good to get some things done that you have been putting off. I spent a lot of time on professional development and online learning opportunities and that was great, to a point. I know I have a lot to learn, but I think I reached an overload.
In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your families. My family has spent a lot of time together and it has been wonderful. We cook healthy meals and eat at the table all the time now. I bet we haven’t eaten this many wonderful meals together in the past 10 years! Go get exercise, spend time with family, and maybe fix the fence. When it’s time, we will be told what we can do, and how. We’ve got this.
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.