SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University’s football team is adjusting to a spring in which there are no official practices. Also, the Yellow Jackets’ spring game will not be played.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled all athletics nationwide for the rest of the semester.
Presidents of Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference schools (RMAC) and others made that final decision.
“I think it’s a smart move by them,” Yellow Jackets’ head coach Josh Breske said. “There is so much more at stake here than just getting better at football.”
This means Black Hills State and other schools are working an alternative plan.
Last week, RMAC officials created legislation allowing coaches to remotely work a mandatory eight hours per week with players. The breakdown is two hours for instruction and six hours for training.
Coaches provided a lot of direction for the proposal, according to Breske. He added they worked together to create a proposal suiting players and coaches while emphasizing safety.
“No student-athlete will be prohibited from submitting voluntary hours as well,” Breske said. “But it has to be directed from the student-athlete.”
A voluntary action, for instance, is if a student-athlete wants an extra meeting with a coach to go over a defensive concept.
“We schedule meetings with our position groups over Zoom (an internet connection similar to Skype),” Breske said. “We’re covering film review, playbook install: those are kind of the big pieces.” Some meetings include the entire team.
Black Hills State subscribes to Zoom, which means the meetings are free to the team. They may accommodate up to 300 people.
Players and coaches are also able to engage in interview-type sessions and get to know one another.
This is especially vital for Black Hills State, who has an entirely new coaching staff and playbook from the 2019 season.
“We’ve had good participation so far, and our guys are hungry,” Breske said. “We’re kind of having a football class, you could say, for two hours a week.”
Black Hills State players are finishing their online classes. Breske said the coaches do not want to have meetings and phone calls dominating the players’ days.
Players are instructed to train on their own for those other six hours, using workout plans the strength coaches provide. Plans are based on whether or not players have access to workout equipment.
“It’s hard for us to be checking up on those guys and making sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Breske said. “The dedicated ones do.”
Breske said one of the most difficult aspects is staying on top of what players are doing. “We can set it up, but it’s not technically mandatory or punishable,” he added.
The team is also trying to stay atop the players’ mental health, with assistances from Dr. Thom Flamboe. He is the mental strength conditioning coach.
“This group of guys is really, really close,” Breske said. “I think the biggest thing they all wanted was just some time out on the field together.”
Not having that field time has disappointed Breske, his staff, and the players the most. He said the team progressed a lot from Jan. 13 to March 9.
Breske said the eight-hour-per-week rule will be in effect until June 1. Normal summer rules then take hold; they center on voluntary workouts and conditioning.
Everything depends on the current situation, according to Breske. He advises the players to be ready for any changes.
“I’m challenging everyone to keep it in perspective,” Breske said. “There are people out there who are losing their lives, who are struggling with this virus.”
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