Athletes find ways to train during COVID


Cornerback Adrian Alek and the rest of the football team began practice on Sept. 18, 2019, in preparation for the homecoming game against Clark High School. It went like every other practice had gone, with head varsity coach Marcus Teal leading the last “work” practice by going through drills and going over the game plan with full contact.

“Last year, the workouts and conditioning helped,” Alek said. “I feel like we needed more, if anything. We could’ve been stronger and more conditioned then we were.”

Exactly one year later, Alek, now a senior, is preparing in a different way for the adjusted football season. Instead of working out with his team, doing drills and practicing plays, he is at home. Alek created a space in his garage to train with at-home workouts and has been doing runs around his neighborhood to prepare for his season come February.

“It doesn’t feel the same,” Alek said. “It’s just better when you have your team there to push you and make you want to be better. It’s a brotherhood. And in that brotherhood, you want to have each of your brothers be better and succeed.”

Alek, like many other athletes at Spring Valley, has had to adapt to practices being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has picked up new ways of training to prepare for their delayed seasons.

“I think it’s insanely important for all athletes to just stay active,” athletic director Billy Hemberger said. “For their own sanity –– it’s obviously good for their physical and mental health. And so that way, they’re ready for our teams. If we want to be competitive, we can’t wait until January to start working out.”

Sophomore Hitter Yunus Schersei has also participated in his own training in preparation for his first season with the volleyball program.

“I really would’ve preferred to train with my team, even if it was a Zoom workout or something,” Schersei said. “But overall, it’s been an okay experience. I don’t hate training by myself, personally, but I would’ve liked it if I could’ve trained with my team and see all of our skills and abilities get better.”

Schersei is in an unusual position that not many Spring Valley athletes share this year. Due to his freshman spring season being canceled, he is going into the 2021 season with no experience in the high school level. Despite believing that there is a disadvantage due to missing out on the in-game experience, Schersei said he looks past that, as he worked during the offseason.

“I try not to look at that as an excuse for myself,” Schersei said. ”Rather, I try and push my training even harder to make up for the lost time. I think it’s important to stay on the positive side of things. Players sulking because they’re at a disadvantage due to missing out on playing time is silly. Yes, practice is practice, but in my opinion, the true practice doesn’t begin until you go out of your way outside of school practices and polish your performance.”

To make up for the lost time, Schersei has been attending open gyms and tryouts for the club teams around Las Vegas to see how he plays compared to other high school players. He has also been using the rimless basketball hoops and courts at Desert Breeze park to practice serving, passing and setting.

“I thought of the serving part by thinking of when me and my family used to play soccer during picnics,” Schersei said. “We didn’t have cones to set up the goals, so we used water bottles for the goals and boundaries. So I thought, why not apply it to volleyball? I remembered where the court markings were on the basketball court and placed down the bottles. Desert Breeze park was the perfect place, as there was a fence on one side to catch the ball from going too far.”

At home, Schersei has been doing a combination of dumbbell training and plyometrics to improve his jump and strengthen his core. He also uses his house’s wall in his backyard to work on all aspects of his game, including passing, setting, serving and timing hits.

“My jump has gone up at least two inches, which is a big deal for me,” Schersei said. “My jump serves have gotten more powerful and accurate. My passing and platform has improved, so I’m a lot more accurate, along with my setting and digging from playing in open gyms. Pain I normally feel has been helped through the implementation of reworking my techniques and strengthening the weak parts of my body. I think [the training] is definitely working.”

If teams were allowed to meet, senior forward Garrisen Freeman and the rest of the women’s basketball team would be beginning their preseason, doing track and gym workouts while also having team meetings. According to Freeman, this is to work on their bodies and make sure their mental toughness is up to par for the intensity of the upcoming season.

“Pre-season always gets me in my best shape because I am working out so consistently,” Freeman said. “I also felt strong because we had opportunities to get in the weight room whenever it was available to us.”

To replace the workouts that she would be doing right now, Freeman has exercised both at the gym and at her local park. Doing sprints and footwork drills, along with body workouts, has given her the results that she wanted with her speed and strength. However, Freeman believes that it is harder to push herself without her team present.

“I like having others around to push me to be my best,” Freeman said. “We also need that team practice so we can build that team culture before the season even starts.”

Some athletes would prefer to train without the help of a trainer, while others, including Freeman, believe trainers are very beneficial and have sought them out to help amplify their skills and techniques while away from their teams and coaches.

“The sessions have helped me a lot because, as an athlete, I am very prone to injuries working out and playing as much as I do,” Freeman said. “These sessions make me a lot stronger, which prevents me from [getting] a lot of those injuries.”

With her trainer Paul from Fast Twitch Sports, Freeman focused more on her basketball skills. In her sessions, which she attends two to four times per week, Freeman does a mixture of workouts that focus on her footwork, form, speed and coordination.

“Without these workouts, I would be a lot more out of shape and less defined in my muscle tone,” Freeman said. “When you work out so often, your body starts to get into better shape. But without consistency, it’s easier to drop off.”

Some athletes would prefer to train without the help of a trainer, while others, including Freeman, believe they are very beneficial, and have sought out trainers to help amplify their skills and techniques while away from their teams and coaches.