Sep 16, 2020
Q&A with Mississippi State Strength Coach Collin Crane

While everyone’s focus in the college sports world is currently on football — and the teams that have and have not participated yet — Mississippi State strength coach is looking ahead to basketball and the winter sports season.

Collin Crane, the strength coach for the Bulldogs’ men’s basketball team for the last three years, has been preparing his team for a season — no matter if and when some form of college basketball returns.

So what is it like training a basketball team during a pandemic with no certainty of an official start date to the season? Sports Illustrated’s Cowbell Corner spoke with Crane about this very topic, among other things, in a recent Q&A.

Below is an excerpt from that conversation from SI’s Cowbell Corner.

Photo: Dennis Adair / Creative Commons

It has been a unique offseason to say the least. How have you and the guys adapted to all the new things and safety measures you all have to take in order to get your work in?

Crane: It’s funny. I’m so used to the changes now that this kind of is the new normal. If you talk to our guys, we’re still getting great work. One thing will never change. We’re getting great work. We’re getting giving great attention to detail. We’re making progress. Those things are nonnegotiable. Obviously we’re just having to do that under certain constraints right now and the main stuff is the health and safety guidelines to protect the student-athlete and protect our staff also. We’ve talked before about the additional health and safety guidelines, in consultation with the CDC, Mississippi State Health Department and the Southeastern Conference on how we can best protect the student athlete. So we’ve limited our weight training group size to six athletes just so we can maintain social distancing. All staff wears face coverings and gloves at all times. Our sports medical staff takes the athletes’ temperature each day and they go through a symptom checklist as they walk through the door. So taking care of those things on a daily basis.

Then once we get into training, each athlete essentially has their own training equipment that no other athlete touches during that session. Then we clean every piece of equipment after every session. Then at the end of the day, our entire facility goes through deep cleaning. That requires our staff to wear special face gear for that and goggles and things. We’re basically fogging the entire room with chemicals that’ll disinfect all the equipment.

Given how different things have been, would you say the guys where they should be on progress or has that been hampered at all?

Crane: I can honestly say that this has not slowed down our progress one bit. If anything, I’m going to go so far as to say that it has made us better. Especially for the upcoming season, the best teams are going to be the teams that can adapt. Adapt to the environment. Adapt to the schedule. Adapt to any changes or operational changes, whether it be travel or whether it be when practice starts or when we play games. I just think the most successful programs are going to be the ones that can adapt and we’re really fortunate that we have a group of players that are willing to adapt along with us. You know it has really been a relief to see our guys and how they’ve embraced kind of the new normal. And they haven’t complained one bit.

If anything, I think it has kind of humbled all of us. Our players have been great at disinfecting their own equipment. We’ve had certain limitations where we’re not allowed in our own locker room, which is a big change for our athletes. But they’ve embraced that. In years past, we’ve done a lot of team meals, team breakfasts in the morning where there might be a buffet line set up for a breakfast after a training session. Well we can’t do that this year. It doesn’t abide by the health standards. So we have to do grab-and-go snacks and snack bags and to-go breakfasts.

» ALSO SEE: ATs Urge Compliance to COVID-19 Preparedness, Study Says

Maybe we’re not getting that same amount of quality time sitting down with each other eating breakfast talking and going through that process, but we’re still as connected and united as we’ve ever been.

There is still of course some uncertainty as to when this season will start and how it’ll all go down. Do you kind of feel like you’re on a figurative treadmill, given you don’t really know when the season will even start? How do you manage training these guys when there is no set date to play?

Crane: As a coaching staff, that was one of our challenges that we identified early on. How do we get great work every day and continue to work with our team and keep them motivated without us knowing when we’re really going to start and get to that phase of when we’ll get to compete against other teams. So we were worried about that, but I think this goes back to staying in the moment. You’ve got to win the day. We’re kind of using the metaphor of focusing on the root of the tree and not the fruit. If we can focus on the process long enough, the fruit is going to be there. We’re going to be successful. We’re going to win games. But as far as the actual plan, we’re preparing as if we’re going to start practice and games as we would normally.

We know we can always back off and modify as we need to, but we would obviously hate to slow down our preparation and then find out, ‘Hey, you’re starting practice next week.’ And we’re not where we really should be. We’re avoiding those pitfalls and really operating under the mantra of stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.

To read the full Q&A with Mississippi State’s Collin Crane with Sports Illustrated’s Cowbell Corner, click here

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