Training Together in Isolation

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — For fall sports, the spring semester is the time to grow – both mentally and physically, but as the University of Iowa volleyball team prepared for its spring tournaments, the team’s progress was halted due to COVID-19.

And just like that began an offseason nobody is going to forget.

“With the current circumstances of the virus, I understand the decision to cancel spring competitions, but it is upsetting,” junior Halle Johnston said. “The spring is a time for our team to get reps and fine tune our skills.”

While Iowa completed its season last fall, the news isn’t without heartbreak for the players’ friends and peers.

“My heart breaks for those athletes whose seasons have come to a close early,” Johnston said. “It’s a reminder to work hard every day because you don’t know which game or practice will be your last.”

As each member of the team retreated to their home, they began training in isolation.

Without the resources available at Iowa’s facilities the team has been encouraged to get creative with their workouts.

“I don’t have a court or net to practice on. I also don’t have a full set of weights to maintain my strength,” Johnston said. “Our coaches have encouraged us to use all the resources we do have to maximize our time at home. They’ve suggested different kinds of activities such as yoga or Pilates to increase our mobility.”

While the student-athletes are forced to train by themselves, they are not alone. Head coach Vicki Brown connects with the players almost every morning in virtual meetings.

“In these meetings we discuss workouts we have done from the previous day and communicate about new ideas to stay fit,” Johnston said. “We also check-in on our teammates to see how everyone is doing. We motivate each other with different workout ideas and healthy recipes. Although we can’t work out as a team, we all work out on our own to stay in shape and get better for the next time we step on the court.”

While transitioning to at-home workouts, the team is also transitioning to virtual learning for the remainder of the semester. 

“It’s a challenge,” Johnston said. “It feels strange to work out and learn on my own and only communicate through my computer. I’ve also had to create a new schedule for myself that allows time for my family, school, volleyball, and homework, all while maintaining my mental health. The switch is a true challenge to responsibility. Although being an athlete has taught me a lot about fighting through adversity, so I’m determined to accept the challenge and carry on with full effort.” 

From cooking new meals to binging a new show on Netflix, Johnston is finding ways to pass the time and awaiting the day she can rejoin her teammates at Carver.

“To pass the time I do homework, cook new meals, bake, workout and tie-dye with my family,” Johnston said. “We also do puzzles and watch movies or TV shows. My favorite show to watch is Locke and Key; I highly recommend.”

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