MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–With the Covid-19 pandemic pausing life since March, one major concern for college athletics, especially the West Virginia Women’s Soccer team, is conditioning.
As with many sports, spring is a crucial time for head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and her team.
“That’s been a huge concern of mine because of spring season and how we’re in the weight room and how we’re developing the athletes physically, injury prevention so we missed all of that,” Izzo-Brown said. “Then you move into the summer months and they can’t play right now and some kids don’t have any access to weights or anything like that. Then you move to last week, the Bundesliga league, which is the German professional league. They were the first ones in soccer to kick off and they had so many injuries. My concern is that piece. We want to play and I know my kids will be like I don’t care coach we can train for two days, we just want to go.
“I do think that we have to look at that and I’ve never really had to look at that in that manner because it’s normally been our preseason. I’ll bring them together, it’s about two weeks. My hope is that it’s not less than two weeks. If it’s a little bit more, of course, I’m happy. I do not think that the NCAA would allow us to do anything less than two weeks for preseason. Again, I don’t want to be greedy because I want a season so whatever they decide but I am also very concerned about the health of the athlete and we just have to be very mindful of that. Again, I’m not greedy but I don’t want to see a lot of injuries. I think that Bundesliga league showed we got to be very careful when we get back into it.”
In their first week back since the virus sent the sports world to a halt, the Bundesliga league had several injures.
Injuries are common in sports. However, if the athletes haven’t been maintaining proper training, it is hard to just pick up right where the left up.
For some of the Mountaineers access for training has been limited. Gyms have been closed and not all athletes have access to the proper equipment.
The weather has been a rollercoaster as well.
“We normally had these cookie cut, do these physical testing, strength testing,” Izzo-Brown said about jumping right back into things. “We just really have to embrace being honest and where we are at with every athlete. Some of it is on them but some of it is on this that they have no control, some of our kids up north, they can’t even get out because it’s so cold, to do some cardio if they don’t have a treadmill or something of that nature. We’re going to work hand in hand. It’s really going to be a team effort to have a great understanding of where the athletes at and we’re working closely with the NCAA to see what we can do to monitor them. It’s not just about the success of it, to me, it’s embracing overall health and well-being.”
Despite not having games, spring is an important time for women’s soccer in terms of player development. Developing her players is something that Izzo-Brown truly misses most.
“I just love developing my players and when you are in the fall season it’s about developing our system of play and dealing with opposing teams’ system of play,” she said. “Our spring season is a lot about our team concept but individual concept. I really miss maximizing my athletes’ potential and developing them. That’s what really motivates me as a coach to have no regrets when they graduate. I really miss that aspect because we have so much more time to spend with that.”
Because of the Coronavirus, spring workouts were lost, as well as a scrimmage against the Carolina Courage, the world champions in the NWSL and a European tour this summer.
While a number of unknowns lie ahead, the WVU coaching staff is doing everything to get the athletes ready for the upcoming season.
“We’re trying to think of all aspects of that,” Izzo-Brown said. “Of course, I’m already (thinking) tactics, tactics, tactics. We’re doing everything we can to motivate the athlete into make sure they understand that when it’s go time, it’s go time. That self-motivation piece is huge. You hit the nail on the head for sure even though we have voluntary workouts in the summer months, a lot of our athletes take it very serious and they come back to campus and they are working very heavily with our strength and conditioning coach. That will definitely be a huge concern of mine.”
The Mountaineers hope to return to the field this fall and are allowed to start using facilities on July 1.
Photo Credit: WVU Sports