As football season nears, players embrace the challenge of staying in shape during pandemic

Bill Snyder Stadium, previously KSU Stadium, is the home to the Wildcat football team. (Archive Photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

It has been a challenge for student-athletes to stay in shape during the COVID-19 pandemic, as most are away from Manhattan and are avoiding contact with each other. The NCAA and the Big 12 Conference have prevented the coaching staff from forcing workouts on players — all athlete workouts right now are voluntary.

In particular, it has been quite the challenge for Chris Dawson, the director of strength and conditioning for Kansas State football. Dawson is unable to physically train the players, but helps them come up with a plan to stay in shape.

“At the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to them,” Dawson said. “We are staying in touch with them, absolutely. But there is nothing that we can do to ensure that they are [working out].”

Thinking outside the box has been key to helping the team stay in top physical condition.

“You just have to figure out creative ways to do it. If you have an elevated porch, maybe you do a box jump or a plyo jump onto the porch,” Dawson said. “It’s really unique to each individual, every situation is different. Some of the guys live in Kansas, so I know exactly what the situation is like.”

Players who are not strong enough or are out of shape will be at a significant disadvantage against fellow student-athletes who took this time to add some muscle.

On the flip side, those who have been working hard will see positive results in the fall. Senior wide receiver Wykeen Gill has been busy during quarantine trying to stay in shape.

“Every week our conditioning coach sends out weekly challenges,” Gill said. “Me and the guys on the team always have fun doing that, getting to see the competitive side of each other and trying to out-bid each other.”

While it has been a unique challenge, the players embrace it and find their own ways to stay healthy.

“For the first couple weeks, I had to get creative,” Gill said. “I think all I had was a band and some 65-pound dumbbells. They sent me a variety of different band workouts I could do. I didn’t even know there was that many band workouts possible.”

As of right now, K-State plans to kick-off its season on Sept. 5, with the Wildcats hosting Buffalo in Bill Snyder Family Stadium for Hall of Fame weekend and Ahearn Fund Appreciation Day. Only time will tell what a football season will look like during the era of social distancing.