BEMIDJI -- Normally at this time of year, the Bemidji State football team would be in the midst of spring practices and preparing for its annual Green and White spring game.
But nothing is normal about this spring. Not when the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out spring football across the country.
BSU head coach Brent Bolte is among the millions of Americans who are getting accustomed to a new way of life.
“It’s weird to have a lot of time off. I’ve been out of the office for three weeks,” he said. “It puts in perspective that football is really not as important when you think about the current scenario.”
Though there aren’t any players to be found at Chet Anderson Stadium, that doesn’t mean they’re just lounging around right now. With players away from campus, coaches have been holding virtual meetings using Zoom, the video chat platform that’s become a household name in recent weeks, to keep them up to speed.
“We were going to start (practice) right when we got back from spring break,” Bolte said. “But with that change, we had to wait until the NCAA allowed us to start working with our guys again, which we get eight hours per week.”
Each position group holds meetings, and meetings about academics also take place now that classes have resumed this week. The strength and conditioning staff has been communicating with players over the Slack messaging app to track their home workouts.
“It’s certainly different because it’s not hands-on, but it’s really nice to be able to catch up with guys with the virtual meetings,” Bolte said. “It doesn’t replace the physical reps, but at least I think the mental side we’re working on.”
As valuable as spring practices are, Bolte at least takes some solace in the fact that there’ll be minimal risk of players getting injured this spring. Still, the lack of practice time for transfers and freshmen will be missed.
“If we had a kid tear an ACL or have to have surgery, we could miss them for the fall,” the coach said. “That way we’ll be healthy coming in. But obviously the downside is just not getting a lot of questions answered about your depth.”
As far as recruiting, Bolte said the staff is actually about a month ahead of where it normally is since there’s no spring practice to occupy their time. Coaches are evaluating potential recruits earlier than usual.
“Since we’re able to do that now, we’ll have that done over the next week,” Bolte said. “And then we’ll start making our decisions on who we’re really going to offer and those sorts of things.
“The difficult part is not having junior days associated with spring ball. Last year we had, for sure, over 200-250 kids up on campus during spring practice, and so we miss that.”
Those junior days have been pushed back to June. The team’s summer camp remains on the schedule, though Bolte said it remains to be determined whether they may have to postpone or cancel those events.
“That’s the part that’s the weirdest because June is usually our busiest month with recruiting in terms of going out and seeing guys,” he said. “I just don’t know if that’s going to happen yet. I guess we’ll find out over the next couple months.”
Like many around the world, Bolte is just hoping for a return to normalcy. Ideally, that includes football this fall.
“I’m just praying and hoping that this pandemic slows down so some football can be played in the fall,” Bolte said, “and hopefully sometime sooner than later, this stuff gets under control so we can get back to some normalcy.”