At this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to how long coronavirus will keep businesses, schools, and sports shut down. For Stryker Field Hockey Club director Tina Parrott, the disruption couldn’t have come at a worse time. Her program saw an increase from 82 to 108 athletes this year and was just starting to form teams and build relationships when school sports were put on hold in San Jose, California.
Regardless, Parrott is committed to keeping her program on track. Recently, that’s required using social media, video sharing and other technology to share workouts and conduct check-ins with her athletes and their parents -- even if she has to learn to use these tools on the fly.
Here are a few examples of how Parrott and the Stryker Field Hockey Club are maintaining momentum:
Daily Zoom Workouts With Coach Jess
At this point, everybody’s got a case of cabin fever. Stryker coach Jessica Hendricks is sharing daily CrossFit workouts via Zoom to give her athletes a way to socialize and keep active.
“A friend of (Jess’s) leads these workouts and we’re inviting Stryker girls to join in every day at four o’clock,” Parrott said. “It just lets them connect and hopefully they’re actually getting a good workout, too. We just wanted to do something for the keeps to keep them active.”
Parrott shares the link to the Zoom workout sessions on Facebook and emails parents to let them know how their kids can participate.
Check-In to Maintain Relationships
Unfortunately, Stryker’s newer athletes and younger were just getting the hang of field hockey before their season was interrupted. Parrott feels it’s important to check-in with this group to keep them interested and engaged. Recently, she set up a Zoom scavenger hunt for her U12 athletes.
“First they had to find a pencil, then they had to find an instrument, then they had to play the instrument,” Parrott said. “At the end, they had to find a parent and drag them in front of the screen.”
While the 25-minute scavenger hunt wasn’t necessarily geared toward field hockey skills, it allowed Parrott to check-in with her newer athletes and build relationships with them.
“As coaches, we’re not used to sitting and talking to kids -- we’re used to coaching,” Parrott said. “That’s the normal. We might ask a few questions over Zoom, but mostly it’s about getting active and trying to maintain our role in their lives.”
Everybody’s email inboxes are full of updates from businesses, schools, politicians, and family members. Parrott said she’s keeping emails to a weekly basis to update program parents without overwhelming them. The emails include information about virtual workouts, check-in sessions, and updates on the status of the program. She often refers the parents to the program’s Facebook group to find additional resources.
Sharing is Caring
In addition to Zoom workouts, Stryker’s Facebook group is well-populated with videos from around the field hockey and sports worlds. Those posts include inspirational videos, drill tutorials, social media challenges, and helpful articles.
“Everybody is just posting stuff -- which is awesome!” Parrott said. “Half the battle is just sharing stuff, that part has been really cool. We always shared on Facebook anyway, but now it’s even more so. It’s not really virtually coaching, per se, but just trying to keep that connection.”
To give back, Parrott created a Stryker YouTube channel to create contests, obstacle courses, and workouts to share with the sports community on Facebook.
Planning for the Future
Parrott admitted that she’s learning to use new technology and software on the fly -- just like she did with her SportsEngine platform. Programs like Zoom, Google Chat, Google Docs have proven invaluable to communicating with the program’s coaches, parents, and athletes. In fact, she’s planning on making virtual communication a permanent part of the program.
“Even when things return to ‘normal’ I’m going to use a lot of this technology stuff moving forward,” Parrot said. “I’m definitely going to use Zoom for our coach’s meetings so people don’t have to come down from Berkely just for a meeting.”
Although COVID-19 has certainly disrupted prep sports -- among many other things -- it’s also providing an opportunity for athletes, parents, coaches and directors to fine-tune their virtual communication skills and, in turn, strengthen their programs for the long haul.