Lehigh’s football team may not be playing a season this fall, but that does not mean the team has been idle since the COVID-19 outbreak in March.
Mike Kashurba, the defensive coordinator and safeties coach, said he is happy with the resilience his players have shown in such a difficult time.
“I’ve been really impressed and really pleased — not surprised — because we have great kids here,” Kashurba said. “Not just Lehigh football, but I think our guys are a good testament to what this place is all about: the ability to maintain a positive attitude, work hard, try to get the most out of it and deal with the adversity that’s come their way.”
And there has been adversity.
Under normal circumstances, team members would have reported to Lehigh for preseason workouts and on-field activities as early as Aug. 1. This summer, however, players were scattered all over the country, isolating at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only is there a mental challenge to keep in mind with the loss of the season, but players have also faced setbacks physically, with everybody having different levels of access to facilities and equipment at home.
Now, 87 of 90 players on the roster are back at Lehigh for the fall semester. Since returning to campus on Aug. 24, players were allowed to have voluntary workouts while adhering to Lehigh’s COVID-19 guidelines. After Sept. 7, players will be allowed to have eight hours a week with coaches, including use of the weight room.
The general sentiment among Kashurba, senior running back Evan Chadbourn and freshman quarterback Hank Shapiro is that while each team member made the best of the situation, it is expected that everyone will need time to get back into peak shape.
“Everyone’s at a different fitness level right now,” Kashurba said. “Jumping right into football would be a little bit aggressive and ambitious, so what we’re really focusing on until we get to October is getting them in shape.”
Chadbourn, who is from Altoona, Pennsylvania, said he worked out at home all summer, training in a friend’s garage for the first two months and eventually working out at a nearby high school with a coach and a few other athletes.
Chadbourn said players have come back prepared, like any other season, but said the team recognizes these unprecedented circumstances and some might not be caught up to speed right away.
“You’re expected to return to campus and be in good shape physically, but our strength coaches understand that a lot of guys did not have access to gyms for a while, so our numbers for certain lifts may not be as high,” Chadbourn said.
Shapiro, from Westfield, New Jersey, said his summer training was similar to Chadbourn as he spent the end of his senior year of high school, as well as the summer, lifting in his garage.
He said as a first-year student it is not easy to contribute immediately, and that task becomes even more difficult without an official season.
“What I try to do is look at the leadership the team currently has and try to replicate that for the freshman class,” he said. “The best way to lead is to serve first, in my opinion, so I just try to look up to the older guys who are doing things the right way and then work off of that.”
Kashurba said the team is doing their best to stay optimistic about the possibility of a spring season, though they know there is still much uncertainty.
He has no doubt that if the opportunity comes for a spring season, the team will be ready to go.
“We want to play,” Kashurba said. “If we’re allowed to play this spring, we’re going to be ready to play, and if we’re not allowed to play in the spring, we’re going to keep moving forward, because that’s not something we can control.”