Menlo Student Athletes Begin Skill Work and Strength Training on Campus

Football+players+now+practice+in+distanced+pods+of+up+to+12+athletes.+These+pods%2C+as+well+as+the+implementation+of+other+health+measures%2C+have+allowed+sports+practices+to+resume+this+fall.+Photo+courtesy+of+Pam+Tso+McKenney.

Football players now practice in distanced pods of up to 12 athletes. These pods, as well as the implementation of other health measures, have allowed sports practices to resume this fall. Photo courtesy of Pam Tso McKenney.

Lexi Friesel, Assistant Sports Editor

After an abrupt ending to all athletic events this spring, student athletes and coaches are finally able to return to campus in the form of athletic pods. These pods consist of up to 12 students.

In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, Menlo requires that all members of a pod have a virtual badge on the One Medical app, have filled out a survey asking about symptoms and have tested negative for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. “Since the start of September, we have seen an increase in the number of Menlo students taking COVID-19 PCR tests,” Jenn Rountt, a member of the One Medical National Testing Operations Team, said. According to the Medical Device Network, “PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen.”

Many safety procedures have also been implemented in anticipation of students returning to campus for athletics. According to boys lacrosse Head Coach Blakely Kim, the Athletic Department has created a very elaborate series of guidelines that coaches must enforce among the athletes. This series of guidelines includes remaining six feet apart at all times, no congregating on and off the field, individually assigned equipment, temperature checks, marked spots to stand and placing gear and separate entrances and exits to all athletic facilities that the athletic department can monitor. “Safety is our number one priority at the moment,” Director of Sports Performance and Wellness Jesse Lindenstein said.

The majority of the pods are participating in strength and conditioning sessions twice a week for 45 minutes each. Training sessions are held outdoors and are configured in a square with one pod on each side, standing on spaced-out cones, with the Menlo performance staff in the center demonstrating for and coaching the athletes. 

The Menlo Performance staff have decided on a series of bodyweight exercises to work through with the athletes with the goal of injury prevention in mind. “The first two weeks are going to be focused on mobility, flexibility, explosiveness and strength training,” Lindenstein said.

Although nearly all of the exercises are familiar to returning Menlo athletes and do not require weights, several Menlo students feel as though the new safety precautions and outdoor space are making training tougher. “[On] the first day of Menlo performance, it was very hot outside, and I was wearing a mask, which made exercising much harder than it usually would be when we were inside,” sophomore Tommy Kiesling, who plays water polo, said. 

A few coaches have decided to include sport-specific training for their athletes. “I really want to see the kids having fun and practicing in the way they did before quarantine began,” boys and girls tennis Head Coach Bill Shine said. “It’s a way for them to have some sense of normalcy.”

According to Shine, the members of all four tennis pods have been able to play singles safely by having each person mark their own balls with their name and staying with the same partner during practices. “Although we’ve only been able to play with one teammate per practice, it’s been great to be back on the Menlo courts,” sophomore Charlotte Yao said in a phone call. 

Like Shine, boys and girls water polo coaches Laura Reynolds and Jack Bowen have also begun skills practices for their pods three days a week. “We have been working on fundamentals, technique focus and conditioning,” Bowen said.

According to Reynolds, the girls water polo team has also begun shooting on goal with each girl only being able to use her own assigned ball. The four pods had been practicing over the summer as well, so the players have had plenty of time to get accustomed to the new precautions. “Compared to other schools, our coaches are very organized, and they give us a lot of time in the pool,” junior Rusha Bhat, who plays water polo, said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Over the summer, the Menlo football players were also on campus conditioning and have now returned to campus for fall training. Although the team is not allowed to share equipment due to county guidelines, the players have still been able to work with Menlo Performance for strength training. “We’ve been doing a lot of bodyweight exercises in place as well as some running and footwork,” junior Jack Giesler, who plays football, said. “I think it’s fun to be out there and a good way to be around my teammates and coaches.”