In any other year, Cal Poly Football would be in the midst of spring training in anticipation of the 2020 season. However, football teams across the country are losing valuable time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With an entirely new coaching staff that expects to change the style of play compared to previous years, the Mustangs have found themselves in an even more difficult situation under first-year head coach Beau Baldwin.
“It’s not like any of us have the blueprint or, you know, none of us have a handbook on this,” Baldwin said. “We’re all figuring it out on the run.”
Despite having no clear examples of how to manage a football program during a global pandemic, Baldwin believes the coaching staff and players are doing what needs to be done to make the best of the circumstance.
“[The coaching staff] will find a way rather than find a reason why we can’t get something done,” Baldwin said. “Before any of this hit, I felt like I had hired that type of staff.”
While members of the football team have not yet had the chance to play under Baldwin and his staff, several players feel the coaches are rising to the occasion by maintaining a sense of comradery and understanding as practices have been put on hold.
“I think the coaches are doing the best that they can with this situation, especially being a new staff,” senior defensive end Ryan Boehm said. “Some ways they are doing this is by having virtual meetings a couple times a week to not only talk football but have some sense of normalcy during all this craziness.”
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hamler echoed Boehm and said his early impressions of the new staff are positive.
“They’ve been getting to know us better and better with more opportunities, so that’s always good to know,” Hamler said.
The first-year head coach returned the praise and said Cal Poly athletes are well-equipped to handle the bizarre situation compared to other universities.
“They’re here at Cal Poly for a reason,” Baldwin said. “Obviously they’re excited about their football career here and that’s important to them, but these types of student-athletes are different … I think a lot of that goes with where they are from an academic standpoint.”
However, as anyone who has had to experience working fully online amid this pandemic can tell you, some things get lost in translation. For Cal Poly Football, the “physical ability to perform what you’re talking about” is impacted most, according to Baldwin.
“The coaches do a good job relaying us plays over virtual Zoom meetings, however, nothing beats learning on the field,” Boehm said. “It’s one thing to understand a play on paper, but it’s another thing when there are bodies moving around in a practice or in a game.”
“We just end up losing out on the repetitive movements and going through things on the field,” Hamler said. “Other than that, they’ve laid out a base for what we need to comprehend.”
Staying in shape in preparation for the 2020 schedule also presents a problem for the program. In a sport as physically demanding as football, being in peak shape isn’t only important from a competitive standpoint, but to prevent injuries as well. According to Boehm and Hamler, the coaching staff is doing what they can to guide players on proper methods of working out. However, players are accountable on an individual basis now more than ever.
“[Conditioning] is a big worry the coaches have, and it really comes down to each and every player being accountable,” Boehm said.
Cal Poly Football is scheduled to have its first game of the season on September 5th at Louisiana-Monroe. If the schedule proceeds as planned, the team will get the chance to prove whether it made the best use of its time without practices.