Players from the defensive side stretch in preparation for the annual Lehigh football Brown and White game on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at Goodman Stadium. Without spring training, players are finding ways to stay fit at home. (Gaby Morera/B&W Staff)

Football remains resilient despite lack of spring preparation

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The expectations of working hard and gaining knowledge to be successful have not changed since Lehigh football shifted to remote training. However, the team’s excitement to compete with pads back on is suppressed until further notice.

The Brown and White Spring Game, an intra-squad scrimmage played in front of family members, alumni and friends, has been canceled — along with the rest of the spring season.

“It’s surreal because we went through our winter training thinking things would go as scheduled, (but the virus) threw a major wrench into all of that,” said head coach Tom Gilmore.

The team’s winter training cycle starts after finals end in December and continues into the first half of the spring semester.

Within the eight hours allotted by the NCAA during the offseason, the team’s preparation for the spring season includes film sessions, lifts four times a week and two full-team workouts.

“Even though we didn’t get a chance to go through our typical tests, our players had great attitudes heading into the spring,” Gilmore said.

Additionally, in preparation for the spring season, three new coaches were named to the staff just before spring break — Mark Fetterman, Alex Stadler and R.J. Chidster.

Fetterman, a linebackers coach, coached at Lehigh with Gilmore back in the early 2000s, serving as defensive line coach from 2000-2004.

Gilmore describes Stadler, an offensive line coach, as someone with the right skill set for what the program was looking for. Along with Chidster, a tight ends coach, the two bring a wealth of offensive knowledge to the staff.

With the cancellation of the spring season, the coaching staff had to make some serious adjustments since going remote.

Junior long snapper Jack Dean, trains in his backyard, by lifting a bag of water softener salts with a weight on top. Even while away from campus, the football team continues to train hard, and many of them have found unique ways to workout at home. (Courtesy of Jack Dean)

While not currently coached or involved in a team setting, the team has shifted its efforts to alternative at-home workouts, curated by strength and conditioning coach Eric Markovcy.

With little access to proper weight equipment, players have taken inventive measures to substitute their exercises. Sophomore offensive lineman Calvin Rivera can be seen pushing a truck up a hill, via Lehigh Strength’s Instagram.

Gilmore believes being as productive as possible through innovation will help push his team amidst the pandemic.

“Our players need to stay safe and work within the framework to contribute to what we are doing as a society,” Gilmore said.

As of March 25, NCAA allowed coaches a limited amount of remote access through meetings with players. Since then, Gilmore and his coaching staff have utilized Zoom to their fullest advantage.

The coaching staff continue to host weekly team meetings and film sessions throughout the remainder of the semester via the video platform.

Despite not being surrounded at practice or lift by his teammates anymore, sophomore running back RaShawn Allen holds the same expectations of them as he would if they were together.

“The standards will not change,” Allen said. “We treat every day like game day, it’s business as usual.”

Although gyms are closed, junior linebacker Pete Haffner said his teammates will FaceTime each other to keep each other motivated.

“We are staying motivated as best as we can,” Haffner said.

Even though the team will no longer have live rep preparation moving for the foreseeable future, the players remain resilient in the face of COVID-19, doing their best to prepare for the fall.

Heading into the 2020 season, about 70 percent of the team will be composed of incoming freshmen and sophomores, Gilmore said. Even with a young team, Gilmore is confident the roster will be able to perform and compete.

“Whoever works the hardest will come out of this the best,” Gilmore said. “Our only real goal is to win the Patriot League Championship, and we are going into (this) with the expectations to not concede.”

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