SEMO athletes still training, just not online

The Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks football team undergoes their summer training session at the Holcomb Success Center last summer.
Southeast Missourian file

For the time being, the NCAA rule book as it pertains to off-season diligence by Division I programs is a very, very fluid situation.

What was allowed a few weeks ago (for example, virtual workouts), is no longer acceptable.

What was limited a few weeks ago (four hours for virtual nonphysical countable activities such as film review, chalk talks, and team meetings) has since doubled.

What may have been a requirement for the student-athletes (off-season training sessions) will not be a mandate by the start of May.

“This change not only allows coaches to continue to educate their student-athletes but also fosters the connectivity that comes with team-based activities,” NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee chair and Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun said recently in a release of the time alteration. “Regular, individual check-ins between student-athletes and coaches remain permissible and are encouraged.”

For the Southeast Missouri State athletic programs, these changes have not changed much.

Neither the Redhawk football program nor baseball team was ever participating in “virtual workouts.”

“(Southeast football coach Tom Matukewicz) says this a lot,” Redhawk baseball coach Andy Sawyers said, “you can’t confuse activity with accomplishment.”

His point being, yes, the Southeast baseball and football players are staying in shape, but no, Sawyers and Matukewicz are not sitting at their laptops watching their players do so.

“We’re going to be like this (with the coronavirus situation hindering activity) even in June,” Matukewicz said, “so I’m not going to sit here and needle all of these kids in April and make them get on Zooms and say ‘I want to see you do push-ups.’

“By the time June gets here and you really need them to be focusing in, they’re going to tune you out.”

The Southeast strength and conditioning coaches have instructed the student-athletes in their care to be training and have even sent out regular workouts to be followed to the best of their ability. However, Sawyers said “trust” is the central theme his coaching staff is monitoring the Redhawk players.

“Our message to them was ‘We trust you,’” Sawyers said. “We know you want to be good and we know you want to win, so that being said, you are all going to have different access and opportunities.”

Both coaches said there is a wide range of training resources available to their squads, which is why the strength staff has varied options to follow.

Sawyers said some of his players have remained in Cape Girardeau and have access to the Redhawks indoor training facility at Capaha Park, while others are hitting whiffle balls into nets in their basements.

Matukewicz said 90 percent of his players are not in town. Some of those at home do have weights to utilize, while others are lifting weighted bags and/or sofas, for example.

“We’ve told them to do what they can until we can get back together and play baseball,” Sawyers said.

More so than any conditioning work, both coaches spoke of their concerns as they related to the academic work of their players.

“I’m not an online learner,” Matukewicz said. “And some of my players aren’t. But they are having to be online learners, so we have to make sure these kids have success.”

Sawyers said each of his players is contacted by one of the Redhawk coaches twice each week, with the ones in need of more academic monitoring sometimes being reached out to four times.

This week, Sawyers said he was going to begin FaceTiming each player.

“Here are our priorities,” Sawyers explained, “one, be healthy and be safe; the second thing is your studies; the third thing is your sport.”

Matukewicz is not so worried about the strength aspect of his players, but more so their weight.

Players’ weight gain is mostly attributable to fat, while weight loss would mostly be atrophy of muscle, Matukewicz explained.

“If a kid goes home and he gains 10 pounds,” Matukewicz said, “boy, that is going to be hard to get ready in a month or whatever we’re going to have.”

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