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Here’s how IU athletes are continuing to train amid the COVID-19 pandemic



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Freshman pitcher AJ Hacker pushes a car while training from home. IU athletes have been forced to find new ways of training away from the weight room as a result of COVID-19. Courtesy Photo

With IU classes taking place online for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, student athletes have been forced to find new ways to train without IU’s athletic facilities. 

Here is how some student athletes are training.

Thomas Warr, junior, men’s soccer

The video conference service Zoom has become an integral part of college classes. But outside of the classroom, junior Thomas Warr and the IU men’s soccer team have embraced Zoom as a way to create a sense of normalcy for the program, with four team meetings a week.

“It’s not quite the same as being with everyone, but it allows us to stay together,” Warr said. “We still get to joke around and talk with each other, but it’s just online.”

For Warr, the Zoom calls are an important way to build relationships that may have been lost without the spring season. 

While the fall practices are about improvement and performing at the highest level, the spring is focused on personal development and coming together as a unit.

The meetings go over some of the standard items such as workout plans, expectations and film study, but they aren’t ordinary.

“Coach [Todd] Yeagley loves his surveys and quizzes,” Warr joked. “Some of it is to know how we’re doing, but a lot is to help us bond. We did a trivia quiz this week on some random stuff, there was some NBA in it I think, but it was really fun doing it with everyone.”

The bond the team has through Zoom doesn’t end when Coach Yeagley leaves the meeting.

Unlike many athletes who do individual workouts, the players do them together in groups over smaller Zoom calls.

“It creates a sense of accountability,” Warr said. “We know we’re all doing it together. Sometimes you don’t want to do it, and that’s easy to do when no one’s watching.”

Since many of the players on the team don’t have weights, the team’s strength coach Thomas Morris has gotten creative. 

“Slow squats,” Warr said. “Slowly doing one squat for 30 seconds, I never knew how bad that could be. Once again, it’s a part of the fun though, doing it all together.”

While Zoom is being used to finish off the school year, the men’s soccer team is determined to also use it as a springboard for the 2020 season.

AJ Hacker, freshman, baseball

AJ Hacker is used to training creatively. 

As a native of Morehead, Kentucky, the freshman pitcher didn’t grow up with the athletic resources he has at IU. He’s used to having to find his own ways to train at his own home. His family built a bullpen in their backyard because his high school didn’t have one. 

So when the season abruptly ended and Hacker was sent home, he didn't face much of an adjustment. He wasn’t surprised when the season was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially after seeing all the announcements about the suspension of professional sports leagues proceeding the cancellation of spring sports. 

Returning home brought Hacker back to his old routine. The transition back to Kentucky was comfortable, even amid the circumstances. 

“It’s home, I love being home,” Hacker said.  

Hacker’s workouts at home include walking with weights across the front yard, pulling a weighted sled in the street and pushing a Hummer up the block. He throws in his home bullpen, which he calls the baseball facility in his backyard. 

Bendu Yeaney, junior, women’s basketball

Former IU women’s basketball player Bendu Yeaney doesn’t feel weird being stuck at home while the world comes to a screeching halt. She has more freedom now than she did a year ago.

After tearing her Achilles in March 2019 during the NCAA Tournament against the University of Oregon, Yeaney was on bed rest until the end of April recovering from surgery. She's has started to go a little stir-crazy since going home to Portland, Oregon, at the beginning of IU’s spring break.

Now, Yeaney breathes heavily with her hands are on her head, staring at the top of the hill near her house during her run. It’s been over a year since she suffered the injury, but she’s still working her way toward being in game shape before she transfers to the University of Arizona in the fall.

“Tuesdays and Thursdays are when I force myself to go running. I hate running,” Yeaney said. 

Since being home, Yeaney has gotten creative with her rehab.

“YouTube has sort of become my trainer,” said Yeaney.

Every morning, she pulls up her computer and types “home workouts” into the search bar, hunting for new videos. Her morning workouts often include a simple circuit of sit-ups, pushups and mountain climbers with different variations to keep it fresh.

To get back to the athlete was before the injury, Yeaney said she knows her training and rehab can’t stop while she’s at home. One last deep breath and she’s off, bolting up the hill.

“Last year I was the only one dealing with my injury,” Yeaney said. “This year is different. Everyone is dealing with it — you just gotta keep your head down and know there’s going to be better days."

Simon Stepaniak, senior, football 

It’s already been four months since Simon Stepaniak stepped on a football field, but COVID-19 has added another challenge to the offensive lineman’s path to the NFL. 

Stepaniak tore his ACL in practice ahead of IU’s loss in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2, so he was sidelined for the final game of his college career. 

Since his injury, he’s been in gyms, unable to practice on a field anyway because he wasn't at that stage in his rehab. He was the only Hoosier invited to the NFL Combine where he only participated in the bench press because of his recovery process. He had the second highest number of reps among offensive linemen with 37 reps. 

Stepaniak is from Hamilton, Ohio, one the earliest states with a stay-at-home order. A friend has a gym in his home that Stepaniak has been using.

“Thankfully I haven't had to skip too much of a beat with all this going on,” Stepaniak said.

Though Stepaniak has reached a stage in his recovery where he can begin on-field work, there aren’t any turf fields for him to practice on. That doesn’t help his hopes of being drafted coming off a major knee injury. Instead, he’s had to do his position work on a rubber floor in a gym. 

“It's a blessing that I have still been able to get my rehab in at a quality amount, and I can't be mad at anything I’m getting right now," Stepaniak said.

He’s on an accelerated recovery pace, one that has him projected to participate in training camp should he end up with a team. Stepaniak said he feels comfortable with what he has shown teams as the draft approaches, still set to take place as scheduled. 

Without access to IU's facilities, Stepaniak’s recovery can only progress so far, but all he wants to do is prove why NFL teams should choose him. 

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