Stay-at-home athletes

Without a weight room, court, field, or track, West High athletes are still managing to stay engaged while stuck at home.

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Owen Aanestad

Boaz Abramoff ’22 lifts weights from home on May 11 as he prepares for football season this fall.

Owen Aanestad, Sports Editor

The spring sports season came to a sudden halt on March 16 when the Iowa City Community School District announced that they would suspend classes until April 13, preventing track and field’s upcoming meets and practices along with the other spring sports’ first practices.

As school grounds closed and coaches and athletes were sent home to self-isolate, West High’s athletic wing was left empty for the first time in years. Normally, from as early as seven in the morning to as late as eight at night, athletes from all sports can be found in the weight room, on the court, field, or track training.

 Without facilities, some would think staying in shape would be put on hold, but not in strength and conditioning coach Brendon Panther’s mind. As the chances that athletes wouldn’t be able to train as a team or in a performance PE class grew, Panther went right to work putting together “Athlete at Home Workouts,” an in-depth google spreadsheet filled with workouts for Trojan athletes. 

Owen Aanestad
The eight week workout program includes a warmup, conditioning and extra workouts.

As weeks of quarantine grew, so did the workouts. “It became less of a ‘let’s kill some time and stay in shape’ and more of ‘time to start progressing exercises to try and get some kind of growth,’ ” Panther said. 

Without any equipment, these at-home workouts enable all athletes to maintain and even gain strength outside of the weight room.

 “The basic principle is progressive overload. Let’s say you can do 10 push-ups. If you continue to do 10 push-ups, eventually that becomes easy. So you bump it up … You might have to do more reps and you might have to be a little creative, but the same principles apply no matter what route we take.”

Panther immediately sent the workouts to coaches and athletic director Craig Huegel, along with being featured on his personal Instagram in hopes to spread the word and get stay at home athletes engaged.

As one of the school’s biggest athletic programs, Garrett Hartwig’s football team has been following Panther’s workouts from home as a team as they prepare for summer workouts which are set to start June 1 and their season opener at Liberty on Aug. 28

“The weight room can never be replaced,” Hartwig said. “It’s not just the equipment and weights themselves that matter, but the camaraderie and work teammates share together that separate the great athletic programs in the state…The program he has created rivals and out-performs some at-home college programs I have seen.” 

Alyssa Skala
Ali Alwahdani ’20 back squats during his football weightlifting session.

Lifting is a big factor in high school sports, but having a connection and chemistry with one’s teammates to build a team community between coaches and players wins games for programs around the country.

 “Seeing football players in the hallways at West, lifting together, players spending time together all contribute to the ‘team community’… To build community and team connections online, we talk about different things outside of football.  The more we know about each other as players and coaches, the tighter the team will be,” Hartwig said.

No matter what season it is, year-round athletes are working on their craft in and out of the weight room.

Two months into the basketball offseason, sophomore guard Christian Barnes spends his time in quarantine in his driveway putting up shots along with playing some one-on-one with his brothers as he awaits a possible AAU season this summer. 

“In order to stay in shape and be ready for basketball whenever it starts, I’ve been doing small daily workouts and run every now and then. Some coaches have even started their own Zooms to do online workouts with players so that also helps,” Barnes explained.

The girls’ and boys’ track and field teams season officially ended after the IHSAA and the IGHSAU announced the cancelations of all spring sports on April 17 but before it was official, both of the teams found ways to safely stay in shape as they hoped for the season to resume. For many track and field athletes, summer training started early for the upcoming cross country season. 

Like many other programs, head varsity cross country coach and track distance coach, Josh Kidman, found a way to connect with athletes virtually. On March 28, Kidman simply tweeted a way for stay at home track athletes to compete virtually through the “Iowa High School Virtual Track Meet” which has attracted 146 athletes from around the state to make up leaderboards in each event. West High’s Raymond Yang ’20 is currently ranked 1st in the 1600m race with a time of 4:46.35.

In an uncertain time like this, working out or not, a way to virtually connect with the people athletes would normally spend hours practicing and competing with gives programs a sense of community and familiarity. The West High volleyball and girls cross country team stay connected via Zoom as they await to see if they are able to practice this summer in preparation for this fall alongside many other programs.  

As West High athletes continue to hope for seasons and workouts in the future, the Trojan athletic community finds ways to stay engaged and create an edge when other schools could be losing one. 

“I just hope kids are benefiting from this. I have heard from a couple coaches who specifically mentioned getting it to their athletes, so that was good to know they were encouraging the athletes, even if their season may not happen. As a coach or athlete, you would rather be ready than not,” Panther said.