With athletics set to resume next January, teams have been using campus-driven voluntary workouts under the COVID-19 protocol.

The last season of Azusa Pacific athletics was discontinued during March, with four Cougar teams holding spots in postseason play. The sudden collapse forced many athletes to find new ways to exercise as the campus and all sports facilities were forced to shut down due to the pandemic.

Throughout this COVID-19 era transition, athletes were not able to attend team practices or prepare for a potential upcoming campaign due to whether or not it was safe to do so. It was a first time experience for collegiate athletes all over the country, and it forced everyone to adapt. This drive led to APU holding voluntary workouts for a majority of their athletic programs.

According to Corey Langerveld, the sports information director at APU, there was a process in which nearly every asset of the athletic department had to come together in order for these workouts to occur. 

“The idea was first brought to the athletics department from the administration, and from there the sports medicine department really took the lead in terms of looking at what the county guidelines were and what was possible,” said Langerveld. “From there they basically came up with this thorough strategy that would allow us to have our athletes back on campus.”

The conditioning process looked very different under the COVID-19 guidelines. When participating, athletes have to practice social distancing. Many are also being placed into smaller segments to make that process more manageable.

Nevertheless, many athletes and coaches feel blessed to have the opportunity to be back training even under these treacherous circumstances.

“The first thing is they’re just all super excited to be back,” said women’s soccer coach Brooke Lincoln. “It had been about six months since they had seen one another. We’re super thankful to APU, the president, our athletic director and all the people who put in the hard work to give us an opportunity. I’ve talked with every player that has attended the minicamp and it has just been so good for them, their physical well-being and their mental well-being.”

Athletes and coaches have been running these voluntary workouts for several weeks now, and many have been learning to adjust to the situation. Although there have been some challenges along the way, each individual has been doing their part towards helping their team prepare for what they hope to be a spectacular season. 

“We have just an amazing group of guys,” said Cougars’ senior basketball player Terrence Becvar. “We are learning the best ways to communicate through this, and we’re training our bodies to hopefully be ready to compete at the start of next year.”

Cayla Broussard, who is not only a player for the women’s volleyball team but also a graduate student assistant for the softball program, has gotten to experience the transition from both perspectives.

“I think they both have their challenges. For volleyball, we are outside in the sand courts as of now just because we’re not able to be inside yet. And so that’s a little different just because we’re not used to playing on the sand all the time and we really want to be back in the gym,” Broussard said. “I think remembering just all the safety rules and precautions has been a little bit challenging from both angles.” 

Many of the training regimes for all sports have been led by Nate Nasca, who is the head strength and conditioning coach for APU’s athletic department. 

Nasca explained all athletes who are involved are doing different workouts that are specific to their played sport. In volleyball, for example, they have been doing workouts to adapt to the sand, running two versus two matchups, lifting weights and so on.

“On Monday, we start by doing school work for 45 minutes and then head to the weight room. Tuesdays we normally do a little bit of functional training, so positional work with the girls. Wednesdays are our stable days. But our main focus has been fundamentals,” Lincoln said when breaking down what the workouts have looked like for her team.

Basketball is also heavily focusing on their weight training and conditioning with coach Nasca. However, they have been given the luxury to use a third-party gym to play against each other and do group workouts on the court together, according to Becvar. 

This process has been a mixture of stability and innovativeness for every single athletic program at APU. And despite the struggles with the new protocol, the mere fact that these competitors are finally maintaining some sort of schedule has allowed them to get back into the swing of things. For everyone involved, however, they all hope they will be able to transition into a somewhat normal schedule when January comes around.

Until then, these voluntary workouts will have to do.