GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida players have mostly returned home as the campus has mostly closed down to halt the spread of the coronavirus, but that leaves challenges for the UF staff.
For one, they have to worry about the mental health of their athletes now that their routine and structure has been completely destroyed.
“At the end of the day as a coach, you have to understand why we’re there and what our purpose is,” UF director of strength and conditioning Nick Savage said. “What I mean by that is they have to know we care and love each one of them. That purpose remains the same through our communication.
“Obviously FaceTime isn’t the same as face-to-face but it’s better than a text message. Or it’s phone calls versus a text message, things like that.”
Savage and his staff are acutely aware of the mental health impacts quarantine or shelter-in-place orders can have on players.
They’ve done what they can to ensure lines of communication are open and student-athletes feel like they can talk to the staff if they’re running into issues, from a mental health standpoint or otherwise.
“My main priority, as I said, is the safe and health of the student-athletes,” Savage said. “Along with that is the mental side, making sure everyone is where they need to be and they’re accomplishing what they need to accomplish — not just on the football end but academics, their day-to-day routine that they need to help with now that things have changed in their life. This has created an obstacle.
“Sometimes an obstacle isn’t just a change of environment, now you have to deal with other obstacles that may be at your house or at your hometown. We’re always being there for the guys in any which way we can. I think they all know and understand that no matter what they need if we’re able to provide it or do for them we will make it happen along with even if it’s just a simple thing as communication or talking.”
So far, Savage hasn’t seen any serious issues. That’s, in part, a credit to the culture that head coach Dan Mullen has built, but it’s also a testament to the communication between players and staffers.
That communication will continue as long as players are away from campus.
“I think our guys do a great job of communicating and staying on top of things,” Savage said. “If they’re struggling with things the majority of the time they do a great job of picking up the phone to call people. I preach to my staff as well, I’m blessed to have an unbelievable staff and they do a tremendous job staying in touch with guys they’re really close with and they work out in the weight room.
“Between me and my staff there is really nothing that goes missed at least that we’re aware of. Obviously, when they’re behind closed doors and when they’re at home, ultimately you’d like to think they’re acting and behaving in proper manner to get us where we want to go.”