After a long-awaited debut, Auburn volleyball is set to begin its season this week after being postponed due to COVID-19. New head coach Brent Crouch is ready to put the offseason and preseason practices to good use when the Tigers host Florida this Wednesday and Thursday.
“You can only make so much progress in every aspect of your program when you don’t play,” said Crouch. “You need the experience of being with your team competing to really see what you have and how they perform.”
Crouch was hired as the Tigers’ head coach in late January and got about six weeks of work in with the team before COVID-19 shut down Auburn. Crouch was now presented with a new set of challenges in developing relationships with the players in his first year on the Plains.
“We got about six weeks in, and I am grateful for that small amount of time, but we did have a lot of Zoom meetings after we all had to go home, and there’s only so much you can do,” said Crouch. “It is completely different when you’re with somebody in the same room, and unfortunately it’s harder to develop relationships when you can’t see each other’s face, so even in person when you’re masked, there is so much facial expression that’s lost.”
During the offseason, a strength and conditioning program was put in place for the players to participate instead of in-person practice. The process of returning to regular practice took about six weeks after being back on campus in the gym.
“It was an extremely slow progression to get back into group practices and I think the COVID protocols have devastated sports in different ways depending on how the sports are played,” explained Crouch.
The team has been getting tested three times a week and has followed all the proper guidelines to both play this season and stay safe amid the global pandemic. Coach Crouch is proud of his team and their efforts to stay safe.
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“They had the option to opt out and still retain their eligibility, and they’ve chosen not to, and that is a really high level of commitment,” Crouch said.
Auburn volleyball is starting its season later than normal and with a different schedule. Still, with a season opener this week, Crouch is grateful for the sense of normalcy that it will provide.
“The fact that we get to play is such a blessing, so I am glad that there are some things in place where we can do that safely,” said Crouch. “Seeing some other human beings in a sports venue, it won’t be normal, but at least it will get us to some sense of normalcy, and I am excited about that.”
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