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Penn State coach James Franklin sat in a bedroom of a condo somewhere in the U.S. on Wednesday for his first news conference of the spring.
It was unusual, indeed, during these abnormal times.
The seventh-year leader of the Lions would typically hold a question and answer session at Beaver Stadium, or on the practice fields inside and outside of Holuba Hall, at this time of year. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the U.S. and forces college classes online and the cancelation or postponement of almost all athletic events, including spring practice, however, an audible had to be called.
Its how over 50 media members joined a Zoom video call to hear about how the Lions are dealing with no team activities, working out at home, and adjusting to the new normal as things like social distancing and stay at home orders force everyone to find a new way to accomplish tasks that used to be done in person.
Not having spring practice is the focus for our players, but the magnitude of this is much more significant, Franklin said.
This is much bigger than sports and something that the entire world is dealing with, and sports take a back seat to that.
Sports are always at the forefront for some, however, because its an escape from the current reality most face: A deadly disease is affecting millions worldwide, and there is currently no known way to stop it.
Franklin said that team, position, and individual meetings are being held over video conference calls, and the strength staff has talked to each member of the roster to find out what they have access to for workouts at home with most of the countrys gyms closed. Recruiting is taking place in a virtual world, too, and players are adapting to taking online courses.
Its been a scramble, it really has, but this staff has been awesome, Franklin said. "We sent workouts for our guys, whether they are bodyweight workouts, or if they do have weight lifting equipment, knowing exactly what that is and setting a workout for them.
Everything with them being home is all optional for them to do, but all of our guys are very motivated. I liked to be planned and organized for everything. This isnt something we had a plan for.
He isnt alone in that regard, of course. Non-life sustaining businesses are finding solutions for employees to work from home, and those in the medical and science communities are racing to care for an ever-growing number of patients until a cure or at least a medicine to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 are found.
Sports will eventually return to operating how they always have, and college football will be no different. So many of the ramifications are still unknown, though, including whether or not the 2020 season will even take place.
In time, those decisions will be made, but until then, citizens are being urged to stay inside as much as they can. Franklin echoed that message Wednesday and reminded anyone listening that there are bigger issues to figure out at the moment then when the next team meeting will be or when the pads can go back on again and that there are still lessons to be learned.
I think the biggest thing, the way I look at it is, we try and compete in everything we do and right now were in a challenging situation, Franklin said. "The reality is, the most successful people, organizations, and teams are going to handle it the best and come out of it the best. Are we going to be where we would have been before? No, but nobody else is.
Were still competing with all the other top programs in the country, and the best programs and individuals are going to handle this adversity the best. I would like to even flip it in some ways and, if handled the right way, we have an opportunity to learn from this, grow from this, and hopefully come out of this thing stronger and use it as an opportunity to work and grow as a program.
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