LSU football players can begin voluntary workouts Tuesday morning, joining the rest of the Southeastern Conference after a one-day delay because of Tropical Storm Cristobal.
College programs around the country have started workouts, a critical step toward beginning football season later this summer. The sessions, though modified by social-distancing guidelines, allow players to train with strength and conditioning staff. On-field coaches cannot watch workouts.
Training ensures LSU’s players will feel ready when football practice possibly begins in mid-July. They spent three months away from campus. Strength and conditioning coordinator Tommy Moffitt provided a manual with exercises based on available equipment and space, but the team lost valuable time in the weight room.
For the next three weeks, Moffitt and his staff will guide LSU’s players through lifts and conditioning. Using technology and previous data, Moffitt will determine which players maintained their fitness levels. Then LSU will split the team into separate groups, training them differently until everyone meets their goals.
Led by Shelly Mullenix, LSU has crafted a plan to keep its football players healthy when they begin voluntary workouts June 8. School leaders recognize the inherent risk of bringing groups of people into a concentrated area, but they think their protocols can contain the spread of the virus.
“One group is going to be people that were able to do everything we wanted them to do,” Moffitt said last month. “There's going to be another group of people that were not able to do anything.”
Though the workouts will resemble typical summer training sessions, LSU has installed safety protocols to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Players will enter the facility every day through a designated side door, where they will receive temperature checks and complete a CDC questionnaire about their health.
LSU administered COVID-19 antibody tests to the players last week. The school will use PCR tests, which diagnose the virus, if someone exhibits symptoms. If an individual tests positive, they must recover in isolation. LSU will then use contact tracing to evaluate other people’s level of risk.
Less than 20 players can enter the weight room at one time this month, so the strength and conditioning staff will divide the team into six groups, staggering the amount of people in the facility throughout the day. LSU used to train about 50 players at once.
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward feels optimistic LSU will play football this fall with fans in the stands, though a final decision will not come until sometime in July.
Coaches will also clean the weight room between sessions — amounting to about 2½ hours of cleaning per day — and twice daily, LSU will use an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect equipment. The machine coats the room in a solution that kills viruses after 10 minutes.
Players won’t wear masks while they lift, but they will use racks spaced 10 feet from one another. The players will return to the same area every day, splitting the team into subgroups. If a player on one rack shows coronavirus symptoms, the rest of the subgroup may require quarantine.
Moffitt expects 85% of LSU’s players to arrive in-shape. He changed the manual once per month during nationwide stay-at-home orders, evolving as he learned what players had available. Moffitt thinks the program went well. Now he has to make up for lost time.
Moffitt has to alter some of his methods to meet physical distancing requirements. He will work with smaller groups than usual, and he can’t do as much hands-on training.
Friday marked three months until LSU is scheduled to kick off its 2020 football season against Texas San Antonio in Tiger Stadium.
“In weight training, we're constantly stretching, doing manual therapies and soft tissue work with people,” Moffitt said. “That all is going to change.”
But Moffitt, one of the most respected strength and conditioning coaches in college athletics, can give in-person instruction, something he hasn’t done in almost three months. If everyone remains healthy, LSU will have its players ready for football practices, whenever those begin.