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This is a featured article from the August issue of YC360 Magazine. For the full magazine, click here.

   Nowhere in collegiate life has the pandemic hit harder than in sports. This year, the Roughrider Volleyball team was hoping to follow up on its stellar 2019-20 season, which included an NJCAA Region I Championship, a 20-6 overall record, and a 3.71 team GPA.

   The postponements, isolation and uncertainty are daunting. But a team so well-assembled does not give up. Despite the obstacles, Roughrider Volleyball found creative ways to train for the season ahead. 

Snail Mail and Sister Groups

   Coach Zach Shaver and Strength Coach Jordan Bickett began by going Old School: “I wrote a hand-written letter to each player,” Shaver said, “so they would know how communication used to occur before the technology we use today.”

   Communication, collaboration and personal responsibility served as their foundation. “Coach Jordan does a great job at giving us workouts essential for our sport,” Sophomore Kennedy Wright explained. “There’s more responsibility on me working out alone.” Motivation, she says, has been a challenge during the lockdown. “It’s easy to say you will do it tomorrow. I’m lucky to have teammates, family and coaches to stay on top of me so I can get what I need to get done.”

   The strength and conditioning exercises combined workouts that could be done at home without equipment; workouts to be done on FaceTime with a teammate; and workouts requiring gym equipment or a weight room when available.

   Shaver and Bickett also had the players work out in pairs. “We created ‘sister groups,’ within the team to work together on FaceTime,” he said, “and we created group chats with specific questions so players and coaches could get to know more about each other.”

Sophomore Kennedy Wright trains at home with her little brother
YC Sophomore Kennedy Wright trains at home with her little brother's help.

Bonding by Zoom

   With the athletes unable to assemble, Shaver and Bickett worked to break the ice between players and build the team dynamic. Athletes were given written homework: puzzles on teammates’ names and background, as well as YC Volleyball rules, jargon and history. It gave them a sense of shared culture when they gathered for team meetings on Zoom.

   “I feel I’m still being connected with my teammates even though I am not with them,” Wright said. “We’re always keeping in touch and making sure that each teammate is doing well and always making sure to ask if they need help.”

   In mid-July, the NJCAA announced that most Fall sports, including Volleyball, would be postponed until Spring semester. Roughrider Volleyball is now tentatively scheduled to commence in January 2021. When they do take the court again, Shaver believes their online training will give them a head start. “It led to ideas that we plan to continue after the pandemic.” He said. “It allowed us more time to interact with our players, because we don’t see each other regularly face-to-face.”