SMU Athletics & Recreation Department: Staying Connected during the Pandemic

By Maroon & White | spring 2020

You may think that the traditional role of a coach may have been altered during the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s business as usual—or unusual—for our team of coaches. With the recent announcement of AUS cancelling the Fall season, coaches will continue to prepare for 2020 and beyond, recruiting, staying connected with their student-athletes, and team building.   

Mid-March saw the Saint Mary’s campus close, and all sporting events and gatherings come to an abrupt end. Annual awards celebrations were cancelled, and for coaches, the sudden closure meant no face-to-face goodbyes for seniors or final team get togethers.    

While the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown has disrupted the normal recruiting processes, the Saint Mary’s coaching staff remain connected with prospective athletes and their teams through the use of virtual platforms. Zoom-based meetings have replaced in-person coaching sessions as a tool to assist in checking in on the athletes’ academic status, post-season training, team building, admission requirements, and general well-being.  

Mesut Mert, entering his 7th season as Head Coach of the Huskies Men’s Soccer team, is doing weekly tactical training sessions with his team (see picture below).  For Mert, this will be the new normal for the team every Tuesday. In addition, Mert is running a weekly team trivia night on Friday evenings as a team builder, and has plans of adding a virtual strength and conditioning component, as well as alumni discussions which will see soccer alumni connect with current student-athletes.   

Women’s Soccer Head Coach Marisa Colzie is also busy with Zoom calls, alternating with full team meetings and then breaking up into smaller rotating groups. She is excited about plans for conducting webinars that the team will watch and then complete workbook assignments. With 11 first-year players and 3 transfer students for 2020, Coach Colzie feels this is a great time to set the foundation for the fall and for years to come.

For newly hired Football Offensive Coordinator Tommy Kanichis, Zoom meetings have allowed him to meet the team and the rest of the offensive coaches for the first time. Although not traditional nor exactly how he envisioned beginning a new coaching career with the Huskies, Kanichis has been using Zoom as a tool for recruiting, player teaching, and coach-player communications as well as a place for offensive coaches to meet, talk strategy, and plan for the year ahead. 

The warmer weather means our Cross-country and Track & Field athletes can focus on training for the fall season, combining some strength training and weekly Zoom meetings.   

For Men’s and Women’s Hockey and Basketball, the recruiting process continues, along with monitoring the needs of their returning athletes. When the pandemic quickly shut sports down, these teams didn’t have much time for team closure, so coaches are tying up loose ends and focussing on the coming season. The COVID-19 crisis also brought disappointment to our Men’s Hockey team, who were one win away from playing for a medal in the U Sports Hockey National Championship after a convincing 5-1 victory over Guelph University at the University Cup national tournament in Halifax. 

Another important part of the post-season is keeping all student-athletes healthy. Head Athletic Therapist Kurt Stevenson is using virtual meeting tools to monitor and evaluate rehabilitation. At any given time, he is busy meeting virtually with 10 to 15 varsity athletes who are in various stages of post-surgical repairs and need help with their rehabilitation.  He is able to develop a series of exercises and goals for his athletes which can be reinforced via email with videos of the prescribed exercises.  

With the gymnasium closures, our Huskies Strength and Conditioning Coach Erik Richard is also very busy. In consultation with coaches, he is writing programs for athletes that can be done at home, with or without equipment in hopes that we return to competition in the fall. 

Erik and his staff are also utilizing their Instagram page— @SMU_strength— to bolster their reach and presence with both athletes and the local community by providing video and picture content covering how to exercise and maximize performance, especially in unique situations.  

Along with everyone in the Department of Athletics & Recreation, our coaching staff are hoping to be well prepared when the Huskies get the go ahead to get back to the pitch, the gym, and the rink! 

Campus Notes: “I give because I believe in Saint Mary’s University.”

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