During the offseason, athletes can struggle to stay in shape and motivated for coming seasons. After hiring a new strength and conditioning coach last year, Andy Gibbons, it has become easier for teams to put in the work during their off-seasons. Football, both soccer teams, volleyball and tennis are all in their off-seasons.
Other sports are either in season or in a pre-season phase. These offseasons can be especially hard because Division III rules say that practices and lifting can’t be made mandatory in the offseason.
For football, lifting is conveniently built into their daily schedules. This has been implemented for several sports with Gibbons’ new system. This means student-athletes can lift during the school day in their open class periods. Junior defensive lineman James Dinaso participates in the weekly team lifts.
“As a team we lift three days a week; Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We have cycled workouts so every four weeks, the workouts shift. We have one workout Mondays, one workout Wednesdays, and one workout Fridays. We do that for four weeks and then we do new workouts and it’s a variety of things,” Dinaso said.
Freshman soccer player Owen Keleher enjoys the team lifts but says it can be hard to get actual touches on a ball, especially with the weather and facilities availability.
“We always try to play indoors two times a week. Everyone has different schedules and it’s not mandatory and we can’t reserve anything so it’s hard. We try and go play inside but softball is in there, or whoever. But we try. Hopefully once it gets warm again we can get out to the field,” Keleher said.
For sophomore footballer Corey McKnight, the offseason workouts that the team are given over breaks are also an important aspect of staying strong and maintaining strength for season.
“If it’s break, they’ll send out workouts and will be at home and they will give us designated workouts. It’s pretty much the same thing where we lift three days and then we run two or three days and that’s the same thing in the summer but those are more for getting stronger. Sometimes the workout is done just to maintain the strength we’re in,” McKnight said.
For women’s soccer, the team lifts three days a week at 7 a.m. Sophomore Alyx Farris says the team loves to get together and play soccer on Sundays. Farris also said it can be nice in the offseason because there are no strict fitness requirements, it’s all about improving yourself and achieving personal goals.
“You can’t really make anything mandatory in Division III but we try to strictly encourage people to go. Every Sunday we have pic-up soccer which is just whoever can go which is usually five or six people, which kind of sucks but as long as we’re getting it going. Most of the team is playing intramurals. A lot of people study abroad at this time so it’s hard getting those numbers,” Farris said.
Mentally, staying strong is an entirely different thing. With the inability to play the sport you love and the cold weather, the combination can be mentally tiring. For women’s soccer, the team makes ‘families’ mandatory so they can keep morale high and hang out together monthly.
“We have these things called families where there’s a member from each class and we go get lunch or do something fun. You have to hang out with your family twice per month so it kind of helps us stay together,” Farris said.
For Dinaso, that mental strength comes from personal goals.
“Just knowing I’m an undersized guy keeps me going. Most of the guys that I go against have five to six inches and 62-100 pounds on me so just being able to get stronger and hold my own during season is really what keeps me motivated,” Dinaso said.
McKnight wants to be named All-Conference again and change the culture surrounding the football program.
“I want to be more of a leader. People are going to look up to me as for what to do. I know we’re trying to change the culture here and we kind of did that my first year but I think getting back to that mindset of believing that we can compete with anyone it’s something that we have to get back to,” McKnight said.
Junior soccer player Annie Peterson says her mental strength comes from listening to her body and understanding she can’t do too much at once.
“I stay mentally in shape and focused by listening to my body and making sure I’m not overdoing anything or stretching myself too thin,” Peterson said. “You only get four years as an athlete here at Knox, and my first three seasons have already gone by so fast … I think just looking forward to the next season keeps me motivated and excited year round as well. Lastly, feeding off my teammate’s energy and motivation during the offseason helps tremendously.”
McKnight struggles more with the mental aspect in season than out of season but what keeps him going is the fact that it’s bigger than just one single person.
“It’s hard not getting too up or down as far as in season goes. There are sometimes when things aren’t going so well, if we’re losing a lot, when you kind of sit back and wonder if you want to do this anymore or if it’s right for you,” McKnight said. “At the end of the day, I think that knowing that you’re there for yourself and your team as well that keeps you motivated.”
Athletes are also allowed to lift on their own time if they so choose. Dinaso lifts alone a few times a week on top of team lifts to meet his own personal goals.
“When I lift by myself, I focus more on specific muscle groups rather than just different lifts and focus on certain muscle groups. I play intramurals, too, just to get some extra cardio in. Staying in shape for season is different than being in shape out of season. Out of season I like to focus on getting stronger,” Dinaso said.
Both soccer teams will get a short period in the spring where they are allowed to practice as a team and sophomore Joey Dorgan says the team is excited for that opportunity and that it’s something to look forward to. The team’s main focus right now is preparing for season and the main goal is to make the elite eight.
“Spring season will build us as a team again, right now it’s just kind of individual. We should be in the elite eight. We made the NCAA tournament and we lost 1-0 in overtime and seeing how far Luther has gotten this year, I think they got to the 16, we believe if we don’t get a 16 or better, it’s kind of a disappointment, especially with the people we have,” Dorgan said.
There are many focuses individually and as a team for every program at Knox. These focuses are defined team to team and worked on in the offseason. The short spring seasons are something to look forward to and then general season as a whole.