Indiana Daily Student

COVID-19 pandemic alters coaching, recruiting for IU track and field

<p>Track and field head coach Ron Helmer speaks during an interview Feb. 7, 2019, in Gladstein Fieldhouse. Coaches can provide guidance and suggest workouts for athletes during the COVID-19 pandemicbut cannot require athletes to report back on those workouts.</p>

Track and field head coach Ron Helmer speaks during an interview Feb. 7, 2019, in Gladstein Fieldhouse. Coaches can provide guidance and suggest workouts for athletes during the COVID-19 pandemicbut cannot require athletes to report back on those workouts.

Athletic facilities may be closed along with the rest of IU’s campus but doesn’t mean athletes were left in the dark with no guidance. But coaches must abide by certain rules outlined by the NCAA.

IU track and field head coach Ron Helmer and his assistant coaches have remained in contact with their team while observing social distancing. Coaches can provide guidance and suggest workouts for athletes but cannot require athletes to report back on those workouts. 

For instance, if an athlete completes a suggested workout, they cannot be required to record that workout. If athletes want to communicate with coaches about their workouts they can, but the discussion must be general in nature. 

“Professionally, I would say, it started off as kind of a nightmare,” throws coach Cory Martin said.

Instead, coaches can spend a maximum of eight hours in online meetings per week with athletes but can email, call and text beyond that.

IU’s event coaches have meetings with their groups at least once per week, including Helmer, who works with distance and middle-distance athletes.

There has yet to be a full team meeting between Helmer and all 93 athletes on the team.

Helmer said he is waiting to have a full meeting so that he can have more specific topics to discuss such as returning seniors.

“Hopefully, within the not-too-distant future, there will be announcements about perhaps facilities starting to open up,” Helmer said. “Things that are concrete, things that they can count on.”

Some athletes have had access to equipment such as weights, while others do not because gyms and facilities on campus and in athletes’ communities have closed.

Recruiting activities for the team have also continued during the stay-at-home orders.

Sprinter Morgan Snow from Stafford, Virginia, and middle-distance runner Emily Sonderman from Greenwood, Indiana, both signed with IU on April 22.

Sonderman has been on campus before, but Snow has never been to Bloomington. Neither were able to have an official visit or meet other members of the team.

Snow and her family remained in contact with associate head coach Ed Bethea and gained a sense of campus by watching a video.

High schoolers across the country have lost the end of their senior year, which can prove vital in the recruiting process. Now, coaches must rely on sophomore and junior marks for recruitment.

“It’s certainly not the way everybody is used to doing things,” Martin said. “It’s given us new ways to think about how to recruit.”

Coaches become more familiar with recruits by speaking over the phone and getting to know them personally and as athletes. 

The future largely remains unknown regarding athletic competition during the pandemic, but the team is preparing and remaining ready for an eventual return.

“Sooner or later, we’ll get back to where things look like they once did,” Helmer said. “We’ll have competitive seasons and we’ll have Big Ten Championships.”

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