The realities of COVID-19 have greatly altered life for the Colgate football team, leaving the 2020 squad stuck in limbo. With their fall season canceled, no one knows when the Raiders will next take the field. That, combined with the restrictions governing athletic activities this semester, leaves Head Coach Dan Hunt and his staff with a tall task to overcome this semester.
“There are many challenges. Loss of the season is top of the list,” Hunt said. “Lack of the ability for the team to be in the same room together is tough too, the freshmen have not had a chance to be around the culture, which is hard on them. We have a lot of players who are remote this semester, so we don’t have a ton of seniors here right now. Add that to the fact that the restrictions on the weight room make strength a concern, and you get a lot of challenges.”
However, instead of using these challenging times as an excuse, Coach Hunt has used the hardships facing his team to develop a new mantra, which has helped motivate the team to tackle the challenges COVID-19 has presented them.
“We have the attitude of ‘So what, now what?’. We have adapted that as our theme,” Hunt said. “We will not feel bad for ourselves or complain, we will look for what is next and how to get better.”
As the largest varsity athletic team on campus, the restrictions on the number of people one can have at practice has severely altered what a normal practice looks like for the Raiders.
“Practices are tough to recognize as football, particularly in Gate 1,” Hunt said. “The distancing and the masks are different, but they are handling it very well. Football requires big groups to simulate a game, so we are ways away from that yet.”
Despite this, Hunt and his staff have found new ways to utilize their precious practice time. By focusing on individual skill development for each position and movement skills for the team as a whole, players will still be able to improve their games even without contact practices.
In addition to changing the way practices are conducted, COVID-19 has also changed the way college football teams are able to recruit athletes. Due to NCAA rules and regulations, all in-person recruiting for Division One sports is prohibited until at least Jan. 1, and coaches are not allowed to meet face-to-face with a recruit off-campus or do any in-person scouting.
“This is a challenge, especially for kids who live too far for a day trip, or do not come from families that can afford to fly here on their own and look at Colgate,” Hunt said.
Despite these recruiting restrictions, Hunt and his staff are looking to leverage the situation to their advantage.
“In some ways [recruiting] is better because we have been able to have more communication with families due to the NCAA allowing more contact during [COVID-19].”
Despite the specter of COVID-19 continuing to hang over much of the country, the team remains committed to preparing for a possible spring season.
“We react to what we are told, and as of now, we plan to play this spring,” Hunt said. “The NCAA has moved the playoffs to May, which is a good sign. Obviously, the Coronavirus is calling the shots, along with the numbers at Colgate, and the state, etc. We plan on playing in the spring until they tell us we aren’t.”
By not making excuses, finding creative ways to work around the abnormality of this fall and keeping his team focused on what is in front of them, Coach Hunt and his staff will have the Raiders prepared to play whenever their next game will be.