Voice of the Bulldogs

“Voice of the Bulldogs” Neal Price leads the discussion as the first of five Virtual Road Dawgs Tour episodes aired on Tuesday. He was joined by track coach Chris Woods, top right, football coach Mike Leach and softball coach Samantha Ricketts.

Mississippi State players and coaches are trying not to take sports for granted this summer.

The MSU athletics department held its first of five 2020 Virtual Road Dawgs Tour episodes on Tuesday afternoon, and football coach Mike Leach, softball coach Samantha Ricketts and track and field coach Chris Woods each joined the roundtable discussion.

After discussing how their teams and staffs are handling Zoom meetings, the next segment had the coaches talking about how their athletes are making the most of their remaining opportunities.

Woods said he has had one large team meeting, featuring more than 100 student-athletes and staff members, where he explained that they were handed a difficult situation but needed to focus on things in their control.

“What we have in our control is what we do during the offseason and how we prepare ourselves for the next opportunity we have to practice and compete in our events,” Woods said. “If this pandemic hasn’t taught you anything, it should have taught you that at any moment, the opportunity can be stripped away from you.”

He said his athletes now have to understand to not only take advantage of events, but to take advantage of practice and every rep they are able to take now.

Most of his team is still able to practice by running, but pole vaulters and athletes that compete in events that require specific objects may not be able to yet.

Ricketts said her team is ready to get back on the softball field, especially the senior class that had its senior season taken away by COVID-19, then had it given back by the NCAA ruling allowing all spring-sport athletes to be granted an extra year of eligibility.

“With the process of coming back, they’re saying, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll wear a mask, just let me back on that field with my teammates,’” Ricketts said.

“Our message to them has been the same as Chris’ message with just getting them to understand that in life, you don’t always get a second chance, you don’t get that year handed back to you, so why not make the most out of it when you do get that opportunity. I think that senior class is determined to not let it go to waste.”

dalton.middleton@journalinc.com

Twitter: @DLMiddleton8

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