SportsPulse: Sports plays a vital role in our day-to-day lives as a means to escape. Mental health expert Eric Kussin says it’s OK to feel depressed over the loss of sports in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and provides steps you can take to address these emotions. USA TODAY
James Franklin is high energy. He always has been a non-stop kind of Penn State football coach.
So the close-confines of his recent work experience during the new coronavirus pandemic has forced him to seek reprieves. Walks with his wife. Playing games with his 12-year-old daughters.
And workouts in the communal gym in the condominium complex they’re staying in.
While Franklin is a known germaphobe of sorts, he also must be particularly careful of infection now because his youngest daughter, Addie, has sickle cell anemia.
“We won’t go in the weight room with other people in there,” Franklin said. “And so I took the 25 pound (dumbbells) and brought them up to our condo because I couldn’t get in there, a guy was dominating the weight room.”
Franklin then smiled.
“Then he left a nasty note in there. He said, ‘Whoever stole the 25 pound weights, could you bring them back?’ So then I wrote a little note that said, ‘Well, could you stop dominating the weight room for three hours a day?'”
Smiles turned into laughs.
“So it’s been different for all of us. There’s no doubt about it.”
Health concerns over the virus first canceled all Penn State in-person classes. Then it wiped out the end of winter sports and all of spring seasons — including spring football and the annual Blue-White Game next month.
Then it sent all of the student-athletes home that could get there.
Franklin now connects with his players and assistants and recruits via video conferences (some with more than 150 people on them at once) and FaceTime phone calls.
His staff has contacted every player, not only to assess their living and academic situation but also their workout possibilities. They’ve then sent them suggested regiments, which includes bodyweight exercises wearing backpacks loaded with anything possible to create more resistance.
Through it all, Penn State is in the process of shifting its offense with new coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, a northern York County native.
It also comes as Franklin has assembled his most talented and deepest team since arriving in State College in 2014.
“We’re still competing with all the other top programs in the country, and the best programs and the best individuals are going to handle this adversity the best,” Franklin said. “And I would like to try to even flip it in some ways and say, if it’s handled the right way, we have an opportunity to learn from this, to grow from this …”
While Franklin certainly doesn’t like the physical isolation and confinement, he is trying to embrace it with the hopes that life, and football, can return to some normalcy as soon as possible.
He said he is constant conversation with athletic director Sandy Barbour, his staff and other officials to create differing plans for whenever that time comes.
“I think in a perfect world … we can lock this thing down over these next couple weeks and a month and, hopefully, be able to get things” running smoothly enough by the summer, Franklin said.
“Obviously, if this goes into the fall, with the revenue that football brings in for Penn State and that football brings in for a lot of universities across the United States, that’s going to be a whole other conversation.”