Given any circumstance other than the present, the sight of Lathrop High School football coach Luke Balash skipping around a small garage and demonstrating the proper squat position with a broom via a Facebook Live stream might seem a little strange.
But since COVID-19 has put a hold on student attendance at all Alaska public schools, including school-related activities, such as sports, until at least May 1, the videos are one of the ways Balash has attempted to move forward with the program as normal.
During a typical off-season week, Balash and his staff host optional 6 a.m. workouts on campus Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This off-season over 20 athletes had been showing up to each workout, more than he’s ever had in the past.
“I had already done a lot of leg work putting it together and I didn’t want to lose momentum,” Balash said over the phone on Sunday about the plan he put together for the fourth quarter.
“I also realized that kids are stuck at home and they aren’t happy about it. … I just wanted to provide some kind of structure that they could latch on to and stay in shape a little bit and do something to pass the time.”
The Facebook Live videos are one of his solutions. Balash films the videos in his garage on the days the team would normally convene on campus and he walks the athletes through the full workout with demonstrations of each exercise.
This week he’s building on the plan by adding a group element. Today athletes will be able to join their coach via Zoom at 8 a.m. and do the workout together. Athletes that show up to the virtual workout will earn points.
The team of 70 has been divided into six captain-led groups and everyone’s individual points will be added to their group’s total. “They’re going to touch base with each other and motivate each other,” Balash said about the captains.
The 8 a.m. start time, however, was a point of contention. When Balash talked with the captains last week about the plan and mentioned the start time they all said, “What?! Why so early?!”
To accommodate some of the later sleepers on the team, Balash will continue to post the videos to his Facebook page so athletes can do them on their own time if they choose.
In addition to earning points for completing the workouts, team members also are rewarded for doing chores around the house. For example, if an athlete shovels snow off their family’s roof and takes before and after photos for proof they will receive bonus points for their team.
And when school resumes, good grades will also be deserving of points.
“Football is a vehicle that we can use to help build kids up and … I’m just trying to provide them some structure and leadership,” Balash said.
“None of this is about winning championships. This is everything about helping kids figure out how to win life and be good people. I’m just trying to extend the reach and make football useful for our community.”
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.