With COVID-19 affecting athletics all over the world, coaches are having to become creative with how to meet with their teams during the pandemic.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi State athletics hosted its first of five episodes of the 2020 Road Dawgs Virtual Tour with football coach Mike Leach, softball coach Samantha Ricketts and track and field coach Chris Woods.

In one segment, they talked about the challenges the coaches faced with handling virtual meeting with their teams.

Both the football and the track teams have over 100 athletes involved in their sports, so Leach and Woods have had their hands full with virtual meetings. Ricketts only has 25 members on her softball team so she has not had to face the same difficulties.

Not only does Woods have over 100 athletes, but his athletes are spread across the world. He has had to resort to meeting with athletes at odd times over Zoom, but he says it has gone well.

“I coach a young woman that lives in Australia and the only time we are able to talk is either midnight here or midnight there because of the vast difference in time,” Woods said. “But the kids and student athletes seem like they’re in good spirits and all of them can’t wait to get back here and start doing what it is that they came here to do.”

Woods has his meetings split up between the events that the athletes are involved in and lets event coaches run their own meetings.

The football program also has over 100 players, and Leach said Zoom meetings can be a little more hectic than he expected at first.

“Well, starting with mine, there’s a bunch of blurry faces,” Leach said. “The first thing you notice on these Zoom meetings is that they’re all missing each other and they’re all tired of not being around one another.”

Leach said he can always hear players catching up and joking with each other, which requires the team to start the meeting later than expected. When the meetings finally start, Leach admitted that he finds them quite awkward.

He tries to keep the players engaged by bringing in as many coaches as possible so players are hearing the same positive things from different voices. They’ve had position group meetings that take place once or twice a week and whole team meetings.

“If the meetings are working, people are engaged, people are locked in, and there’s a body language exchange,” Leach said. “So you lack that, but there’s definitely been some enthusiasm around our meetings.”

dalton.middleton@journalinc.com

Twitter: @DLMiddleton8

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