By Lila Nolan, Staff Writer
Over the past several months, it seems like all of our societal norms are slowly shifting to be COVID19 friendly. Our very own LIU Shark football team has given us a first-hand account of their new season regulations under the pandemic safety guide.
Amid this coronavirus pandemic and all it has thrust upon our lives, it was a pleasant surprise when the Northeast Conference decided to postpone this year’s football season rather than canceling it. It was expected that there would be many changes for the coaches, players and fans. On Dec.3, the NEC announced that Football and other fall sports would resume competition in March of 2021.
Jonathon Debique, a redshirt-junior running back for the Sharks, was disappointed with how preseason looked like this year. “The preseason is usually the best time for all our teammates to bond at practice and workouts,” he said. “But with the new Covid restrictions, workout groups are limited in size, which means the different positions don’t even see each other or workout with each other like we have in past years.”
Joseph Amalfitano, a graduate defensive lineman, feels it is harder to develop team bonds under the current circumstances. “Due to COVID, we are forced to work out in more condensed groups of only 4-5 athletes, which is usually made up of mainly players in our position group,” he said. “Whereas had it not been for COVID, we would be working out as a team or separated by only offense and defense. This makes it harder for a lot of guys to get to know each other, especially the newer guys.”
In retrospect of the Sharks’ difficulties of their preseasons, which usually takes place in the spring/summer and utilized to prepare the team for the upcoming fall season, the athletes have also had to reform to an entirely new system. On a day to day basis, the Sharks have had to adopt a new set of schedules and regulations that are COVID-19 friendly but ultimately safe for the entire LIU community.
Head coach Brian Collins revealed the safety measures the team has taken during practice. “We have worked in small groups of 10 with pods of 5. Those five social distance and stay in their pod for the entire workout; lifting, conditioning and positional work. We have not gotten into formations or worked competitively against each other,” he said. “We have been limited from actual practice, so it was important for us to get our team back into shape, so we concentrated on strength and conditioning.”
This teamwork is detrimental to a team and their chemistry on and off the field. With this being a huge concern for everyone involved, Coach Collins emphasizes both the hardships of this time and how the team has overcome the adversity. “It has been a difficult time, but I believe we have been able to instruct a bit more. There haven’t been many pros through this period, but our players are resilient and have adapted the best they can,” he said. “They are hungry to get to work, and although they have been apart from each other, we have an extremely tight bond through this all. We all appreciate being able to play this game and can’t wait to get back out there.”
After reviewing all of the new safety regulations set, the entire LIU community still hopes that the spring 2021 football season will occur. After months of isolation and social distancing everywhere on campus, the Sharks’ optimistic comeback year seems due.
Derick Eugene, a senior wide receiver, is waiting for the opportunity to compete again. “I’m most excited to get back in full pads and play ball again. I haven’t been able to play in a while due to injury, so it’d be fun to get back out there and play, he said. “We have to fight through everything we’re going through. Everyone is making adjustments through these times, so we have to make the best out of a bad situation.”
Coach Collins is looking to rebound from last season and capitalize when the season starts. “Coming off a difficult season transitioning into D1, we are hungry for a win. The players are extremely motivated,” he said. “Communication and trust are key components in team-building, and it is much different in this environment, but preparing the team throughout the week to play a game is what I miss most.”
Collins reflects on the adrenaline that live competition has to offer. “Then there is game day, waking up with that excitement, getting to the stadium, and seeing the different aspects coming together,” he said. “The cheer and dance teams, the band, the student body and fans, all demonstrating pride in our University.”
Collins is excited for the day the season starts. “Competition is what we thirst for, so the game itself is missed most. There is such a great feeling walking off the field victorious and seeing all the families and fans greet our team.” Coach Collins said.
In our society, it seems like positive and exciting news has been a foreign concept lately. After speaking with several of the players and Coach Collins, the Sharks football team remains optimistic and even transfers that contagiously great energy throughout the LIU community.
Anthony Lavio, a graduate student defensive tackle, can not wait for the day he and his team can return to the thrill of playing. “I am most excited to get back on that field. It feels like it has been a lifetime since we played a football game,” he said. ” I know we will all be ready to win. I want the LIU Shark fans to know that we are working as hard as possible to get back to our winning ways.”
Lavio added why this season has so much more meaning than just football. “We are all excited to get this spring season going. Even though it will be different, we couldn’t be more ready to go. Everything for Clay. CB4 for life.” Lavio said.
Seeing the strength and positivity radiating off the Long Island University Sharks football team serves as a pragmatic beacon of hope for the LIU community. The consensus is that the Sharks community is ready to return to the sidelines to cheer on this resilient group of athletes in a safe and COVID-19 friendly atmosphere.