{{ timeAgo('2020-03-25 01:16:07 -0500') }} football Edit

Despite The Shutdown, Tar Heels Are Still Training

Strength and conditioning coach Brian Hess (pictured) has his hands full teaching and mentoring the Tar Heels from afar.
Strength and conditioning coach Brian Hess (pictured) has his hands full teaching and mentoring the Tar Heels from afar. (Jenna Miller, THI)

With North Carolina’s spring football practice currently on hold and the university shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players are having to work on their game both on and off the field from back home.

“Guys are scattered everywhere,” UNC Coach Mack Brown said. “We just basically have shut everything down and said, ‘Do everything online from your house, from your apartment.’”

Staying in peak physical shape is the top priority for the players right now, especially when you consider they should be in the middle of spring practice.

Originally set to begin on Mar. 17, the Heels were going to be the last program in the ACC to start practicing. Why? Strength and conditioning coach Brian Hess wanted two extra weeks in the weight room with the players before they dove into a month of on-field work.

Unfortunately for UNC, the ACC canceled all spring athletic-related activities a few days before practice was supposed to begin. And now, with the campus shutdown for the foreseeable future and sports as a whole at a standstill, the players are having to take care of their bodies without any in-person guidance from their coaches.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t being assisted via the world wide web, though.

Traditional weight lifting would be optimal, but isn't possible during the pandemic shutdown.
Traditional weight lifting would be optimal, but isn't possible during the pandemic shutdown. (Jenna Miller, THI)

Hess and his staff are conducting virtual workouts and sending players their offseason workout plans online. They can even call in and watch as Hess and members of his staff go through different exercises they can do from home.

Not only that, but Hess has created some unique ways for players to stay in shape if they don’t have any weights or equipment available. This includes stuffing backpacks full of books and using water jugs as weights.

It’s far from ideal, but it does give the student-athletes a way to continue to work out from no matter where they are.

“Coach Hess has a program for those that have weights available and he's got a program for those that don't,” Brown said. “He's actually teaching guys in their own homes how to continue to get stronger or at least maintain your strength without any weights.”

At the same time, a handful of Tar Heels are choosing to go through on-field workouts together and sharing videos or photos from them online.

Beau Corrales, Jordan Tucker, Jacolby Criswell and John Copenhaver have all been working out together around the Atlanta area while Sam Howell, Dyami Brown, Ray Rose and class of 2021 commit Gavin Blackwell have been playing together in Charlotte.

No congregating and a closed campus means the football locker room is empty these days.
No congregating and a closed campus means the football locker room is empty these days. (Jenna Miller, THI)

The likes of Josh Downs, Tomari Fox and Antoine Green are just a few other Heels that have been posting their workouts on social media.

Brown is aware of these group workouts and has no problem with them, as long as they are not happening on campus.

“I know Sam Howell has got some player-led practices that they’re doing while they’re still being appropriate with social distancing in Charlotte,” Brown said. “I know that some of the guys in Atlanta are working out together. So, guys are getting out and working together, but not around here."

Nutrition is the other top priority for the players who, while on campus, are on a strict dietary program. The coaches and nutrition staff aren’t with them now, thus the players must be accountable for what they’re putting in their bodies.

This is one aspect of this situation that Brown is most worried about.

“It’s a real concern…” Brown said. “And that’s why we have to really call on the player to step up if he wants to play and be healthy and, at the same time, we have to call on the parents and the high school coach and the people around them. If you’re a guy that overeats and we’re not around, then you can eat yourself out of having a chance to play.”

To help make things easier for the players, members of the staff are in constant contact with them, helping to provide any nutritional guidance they might need while away from the university.

“We've got our nutritionist Kelsee Gomes who’s reaching out every player and trying to make sure that their needs continue to be met,” Brown said. “We're sending them things constantly whether it's scholarship checks or whether it is nutritional needs.”

Still, there’s not but so much the staff can do since all 85 scholarship players are currently not allowed on campus. Brown knows this and is having to rely on his players and their parents more than ever before.

“They don't have the same nutrition as here,” Brown said. “So, if a guy's too heavy and we had to really work with him or he’s too light and needed to eat more because they had really bad habits, that's all on them and their parents now.”

While it remains to be seen how well the players are taking care of themselves while away from their coaches, one thing is for sure: Brown and his entire staff are providing them with all the tools they need to succeed during these unprecedented times, and that's all you can really do until normalcy returns across the globe.