By J1 Reporter Haley Hoffman
The effects of COVID-19 have dramatically changed the pathway for athletes everywhere. From football teams opting out of their Friday night lights, to teams requiring daily screenings for all sorts of activity, the everyday athlete is being challenged to a new level.
But let’s not forget about the work that goes on behind the scenes and some of the most impactful training for an athlete: weightlifting.
“I actually think the workouts are more effective this year,” Marian weight training coach, Ms. Lauren Barefoot, explained. This is coach Barefoot’s second year with Marian, after taking the place of former trainer, Ed Dudley, who has gone to part-time status. In Barefoot’s time at Marian, she has helped make dramatic improvement to the weight room such as implementing new equipment and a new training technique. Her technique, though, has been modified with the new COVID-19 restrictions for Marian’s athletes.
“There’s no contact in the weight room, and we’re reducing the chances of spread wherever we can,” Barefoot said. This means that every girl would have to have her own rack, bench, and weights for an entire set of exercises. “We’ve been able to keep a cap to 14 people,” Barefoot said, so she knew she would have to make quick, and somewhat expensive, adjustments to the weight room.
Along with the new additions, all athletes are required to wear a face mask when working out. They also have to spray all of their equipment with a disinfectant spray and wipe it with a clean towel. Along with this, Barefoot also disinfects the floors at least twice a week. “Nothing ever gets touched without it also getting cleaned,” Barefoot said. “Anything you’re touching, no one else has touched.”
The trickiest part about having the girls in the weight room is how difficult it would be to do testing. In the past, Barefoot said she has loved to have her athletes test to see the way that they have improved in their speed, strength, and vertical jump. These tests not only take a lot of time, but the athletes also touch the same areas in the test. Without modification to the tests, it would take at least double the amount of time to test each girl and to clean off the area.
“It’s like throwing spaghetti noodles at the wall and seeing what sticks” is the way Barefoot explained that without proper testing, she isn’t completely sure of positive results. Track, cross country, and swimming are sports that are easier to test than the others. These sports’ testing is very black and white. Either you get faster, or you don’t, it’s as simple as that. But with sports like volleyball and basketball, when you’re testing a vertical jump and agility, it’s not as easy.
“I’m trying to bring back contactless testing for my other athletes,” Barefoot said. She explains this to be something like a strength test, like seeing how much weight you can lift in one movement, and speed testing. These are tests that wouldn’t require much contact and would allow athletes to stay more socially distanced.
Barefoot also touched on the mental aspect of the change for her athletes, as she’s been able to see them develop through all the restrictions. “As we’ve gotten into the school year, athletes have taken it more seriously… it’s funny, we’ve gotten more rules, but better at following them,” Barefoot said she thinks that this revolves around the aspect of guilt.
Guilt is one of the most impactful feelings that can completely change the way an athlete feels, especially in this time. No one wants to be the reason why their team has to stop playing or the reason why another person got infected. Barefoot said she thinks the mindset of her athletes is: “If I bring it in, I’m the reason for us being done.” This is a heavy weight to carry for the length of a season.
“With team sports, it’s very much about the ‘we’,” Barefoot said. “it’s not just about me, I want to make sure we can play all season.”
COVID-19 has had a deep physical and mental effect on every athlete. Whether it is on the court, in the weight room, or in ways you can’t see, today’s athlete has had to fight to figure out a way to make this the new norm. The world needs athletic leaders who can step up and make positive change, and thankfully Marian has trainers like Lauren Barefoot who would go to any length to make the best decisions for the athletes in her program. COVID-19 may be tough, but Marian athletes are way tougher.