While Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were campaigning for a college football season, many sports fans around the nation forgot about one of the most electric sports in the NCAA—volleyball.
After an offseason of at-home workouts, TCU Volleyball has been practicing like everyday is their last since they got on campus.
“You see all these coaches giving pep talks about, ‘You know you want to play every day like it’s your last,’” head coach Jill Kramer said. “The reality is you don’t know when someone’s going to say ‘Okay, hey, you’re out for two weeks.’”
Kramer called TCU Football cancelling their game against SMU a “reality check” for her players.
Though the Frogs’ energy and engagement has been through the roof, social distancing and sanitizing guidelines have made preparing for the season more difficult than usual.
“It’s not your typical environment, but it’s, honestly, still a really high-energy environment,” middle blocker Katie Clark said. “[It’s] super fun to still play, but it’s a big change.”
As expected, TCU players and coaches are required to wear masks at all times when in the practice gym. Along with that, players must stay in small groups throughout practices. These groups are based on who the players live with to prevent the virus from spreading to the entire team if a player were to get it.
Kramer said that her team has had to deal with the virus but did not elaborate on whether or not anyone within the program had ever contracted a case.
Lastly, the volleyballs used by the team as well as the hands of players and coaches are being sanitized constantly throughout practices.
Precautionary measures for the Frogs go beyond practice, though. Players are asked to keep seeing friends that are not on the team to a minimum as well as take the majority of their food to-go.
“Finding ways for them to connect has been a challenge,” Kramer said about her players staying in groups. “But, ya know, this is all about new challenges.”
Though these things sound small, they most certainly add up. For the most part, TCU is not even required by the NCAA or Big 12 to take all of the precautions that they do, but the athletic department decided to go above and beyond to protect their student athletes and the people with whom they come in contact.
Clark emphasized that the Frogs’ health and support staff has done a phenomenal job in keeping the team safe during the preseason.
Games will also look a little different for TCU this year. In an effort to keep travel to a minimum, teams will play Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday double headers against opponents at one location. This means that the Frogs will play each series either entirely at home or entirely on the road.
During the games, teams will not switch sides of the court between sets like usual. Instead, they will play each game of the double header on a different side of the court.
Teams are required to test three times per week. These will come the morning of a match, the day after, and one day during the week.
As far as masks go, this will vary by location, team, and player. Kramer mentioned that different county regulations could require it; however, the Big 12 has not necessarily mandated it out right for the players in the game. She did say that you could see different players or teams wearing them in a game while others are not, based on their personal needs.
All in all, you have to applaud Kramer and Co. for their efforts. They have gone above-and-beyond to make sure their season is a reality. Despite the extra eligibility that the NCAA has granted seniors, this fall certainly matters to the four on TCU’s roster; so it’s heartening to see their coaches and teammates take that so seriously.
“We’re going to be very intentional about what we do,” Kramer said. “We’re going to celebrate all of our little wins together throughout practice. We’re going to make this [volleyball] the best part of our day; and that’s the way you should live all the time.”
All of the Horned Frogs’ hard work will certainly be put to the test right away, as they open the season on Oct. 2nd and 3rd at Baylor.