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How Kentucky Football Players are Staying In Shape During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has touched all aspects of American life. At the University of Kentucky, Mark Stoops’ football program has adjusted on the fly.

Spring practice has been canceled, campus has been closed and players have been sent home. Just like their teachers have adjusted to providing instruction online, UK head strength coach Mark Hill has adjusted to coaching remotely.

“I don’t know what might be worse for kids that’s new to homeschooling: If your parent was an educator, or your parent was a strength coach and has nobody to work out but you,” Hill told KSR Tuesday night. “P.E. class was fun for me, I’ll you that,” he laughed.

In-between juggling homeschooling duties with his two children, Hill and Corey Edmund, UK Football’s Director of Performance, have spent the last week reaching out to every single Wildcat to design individualized workout plans.

“It’s different based on the individual and what they have access to. We did send out a generalized workout program with different options, depending on what you have. But we’re in the process of contacting each and every one of our athletes and just talking to them,” Hill said. “When they give us that information, that’s when we as strength coaches provide feedback about what they can be doing.”

Access is the primary problem for strength coaches across America. Not only are on-campus sites closed, but exercise facilities across the country players typically use to stay in shape during their time off, like a YMCA or Planet Fitness, have also been shuttered. Even though they may no longer have access to state of the art facilities, student-athletes can still find time to work out. All they need is 25 yards.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch for any person to find 25 yards of open area. In that 25 yards that’s where you can do something,” Hill said. “You gotta do the best you can with what you have.”

Some UK football players, like freshman running back JuTahn McClain, have weights available at their home.

“I talked to one kid who said, all I have is a med ball. I said, well, you know what, you can be doing this right here. I talked to a kid who said I don’t have access to anything,” Hill recalled. “Well, you know what, let’s make sure we’re doing some movement stuff in a field, in the driveway, something. Make sure you’re doing your push-ups. We got a lot of body weight stuff, exercises that we included in a workout. So there’s something for everybody. If you don’t have weights, if you don’t have bars or what not, well guess what, we’ve got a great body weight circuit that we can do that includes push-ups, sit-ups, burpies, lunges — you name it.”

Freshman wide receiver Kalil Branham got creative with his workout tools, using an old tire and a hill to stay fit.

Hill would much rather spend this time training his players in-person. Luckily, the timing should not be too detrimental to the program’s physical fitness. The most grueling workouts of the year for the football team were completed prior to spring practice. Last week the team was already scheduled off for spring break, a slight reprieve for players who were typically only lifting two to three times a week.

Significant problems could arise when the players return. As you can probably personally attest, it’s easy to resort to snacking when you are bored at home. The difference between Joe Schmo and a Kentucky football player is that they’ve spent years routinely exercising to perform at the highest level. Hill does not believe any of his players can easily kick that habit.

“I don’t think you can call yourself a college athlete and just be okay with sitting around the house for three straight weeks and not doing anything. I don’t think that is the mindset of any of our guys. I say that confidently.”

Even so, Hill has no way of holding players accountable when hey are away from campus It’s physically impossible.

“There’s no way I can hold people accountable. I think the accountability is going to come from the players. I think this is a defining moment in every NCAA athlete’s career right here… The accountability is going to come from themselves. I think that every institution, every program is dealing with that. I think they understand that this is not something that is going to last a week. It’s not going to last two weeks. We don’t know right now when we can get those kids back on campus, so I think that we have have to stay in constant communication with our players. That’s what we’re doing as a strength staff. That’s what we’re doing as coaches. We’re staying in constant communication and we’re relaying the same message. Stay prepared.”

Just like the rest of the world, Kentucky football players are living life one day at time. Throughout the process it’s important for players to remember why they are putting in extra work every single day: Atlanta.

“You have to live life day to day, keep a routine, keep a schedule and do the things you need to do in order that when we get back we’ll be in the best place possible,” Hill tells his players.

“We still have those goals as a team that we’re trying to reach. You have to do your part. Everybody has to do their own part.”

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

2 Comments for How Kentucky Football Players are Staying In Shape During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. SuperTroy18
    2:04 pm March 25, 2020 Permalink

    Branham is gonna be a bad man in the SEC. LOOK OUT!

  2. ukkatzfan
    3:42 pm March 25, 2020 Permalink

    Love the lemonade attitude.