Virtual training sessions helping the AAHS community stay connected
Alexandria Area High School athletes, students and staff work out three times a week with the help of AAHS strength coaches as a way to stay active and state connected.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges as people try to navigate both physically and mentally through life amidst this virus.
In Minnesota’s latest state-wide shutdown, sports are paused until practices can resume on Jan. 4. Until then, Alexandria Area High School athletes are going the extra mile to get better with some creative help from AAHS strength coaches.
The strength coaches host three half-hour virtual workouts per week for Alexandria athletes, students and staff. It started as a way to keep the winter teams in shape as they prepare for their upcoming season, but it developed into more.
“The strength coaches thought of this because two of us are track coaches. We already had to coach virtually last spring,” Meghan Orgeman said. “We went to (AAHS Activities Director) Ben (Kvidt) and the winter coaches and said to them that if we can provide a way to keep them fit and also keep them connected, we are willing to do whatever we can. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we have training sessions for our winter sports altogether.”
The original idea was that the training sessions would be separated by each winter team. However, the coaches wanted to work out virtually as a whole group.
“We thought it was important because the kids don’t get to see each other,” Orgeman said. “The more, the merrier was kind of the thought. Anywhere between 60-80 kids are there every week. One time we had 86 kids participate. During that time, we have our weight room set up with a 180-degree camera. Two of our coaches will do the workouts with the kids while the other coaches will run the technology and answer questions.”
The strength coaches record the training and post them to the Schoology page for athletes to use whenever they want.
“Covid has really challenged us to think outside the box and think of new practice models ever since last spring,” Orgeman said. “We’re having a lot of fun with this one. We do anything from metabolic conditioning and circuits to general strength. We ask that the cameras are on, and most of them do turn it on.”
The success of the virtual workouts created opportunities for more students. The strength coaches started a class for non-athletes and a separate class for teachers.
Working out with classmates on a live stream is intended to replicate the effects of a real practice. The strength coaches have found ways to be creative during these times to get the most out of their athletes.
“We structure workouts knowing there are limitations,” Orgeman said. “The workouts have a time element, so they are working as fast as they can with constant movement. Other times they are going 20 seconds on then 20 seconds off. Even with their cameras on, it’s hard to see if their form is correct. We have one coach that typically watches and will tell them to get their backs flat or to get lower during an exercise. We do have coaching feedback, but every exercise is meant to be simple.”
Orgeman is looking forward to a track and field season after the 2020 campaign was canceled due to COVID-19. Seeing athletes willing to go above and beyond is what makes her confident that she can handle anything as a coach that’s thrown at her.
“I feel like we’ve been able to practice the safety protocols that allow us to do what we can do and that will help us way into the future,” Orgeman said. “It will never get easier seeing a senior not get a final season, but I feel very lucky to have a really supportive activities director and coaches that refuse to quit.”
Alexandria students are given Chromebooks at the beginning of the year for their school work and are using their tools to stay healthy.
“I am so proud of the kids because it’s completely optional,” Orgeman said. “We don’t take attendance, and they continue to show up and work hard. I think back to track last spring when kids just kept showing up without any promises. I think that speaks to the culture that we have at AAHS. Our coaches push for excellence, and they have a high bar. These kids reach for that bar. They work hard together and have fun together.”