A year into his tenure at Salamanca High School, Chad Bartoszek is leaning on digital communication to prepare his football team for the summer offseason.
Currently, state COVID-19 restrictions have schools closed, so in-person workouts — either outdoor or in the weight room — are on hold. So home workouts and video lessons will take their place until guidelines loosen, perhaps as soon as the region reaches Phase 4 in the state’s reopening.
Safety training for coaches went digital as well, as Bartoszek started a series of free webinars last week with former Alden coach Rob Currin, both in their positions as USA Football Master Trainers, through a partnership with the Buffalo Bills.
Bartoszek said the webinar setup is similar to how he currently communicates with his team, recording the computer screen as he goes through a PowerPoint, playbook or video presentation, then uploading it to Hudl for players to view. But the USA Football webinars are live through Zoom, giving coaches an opportunity to learn from Master Trainers in place of in-person clinics.
“The Bills, through USA Football, still want to reach out, still connect and that was as good as we were capable of getting,” Bartoszek said. “It was really a cool experience, we got some good feedback. I’ve never done one live before, and in terms of a webinar it’s kind of strange just speaking to a screen, you know that there’s 70-80 people out there listening, so you don’t get a lot of face-to-face there, but it was pretty cool. (Bills defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier stepped in and talked some ‘ball.
“And it’s just another tool for us to communicate. Even when (the coronavirus) goes away, I still think you’re going to see more of the virtual communication. Because it really does fit everyone’s schedule a little better, where you can get an extra little bit of time in with your players when they don’t have to physically be at the facility.”
— Bartoszek said he first started helping to make general workout plans for spring athletes when the COVID-19 shutdown began, seeking advice from college PE departments including Buffalo and St. Bonaventure.
“We were producing workouts, giving the kids options, and since (May 1), they officially said school was done for the year and that spring sports weren’t going to happen, that was kind of a tough day for our spring athletes, our seniors. Collectively, we all felt pretty bad for them,” he said. “But from that point on I did start to turn toward the summer and fall, and we have since been communicating more and more about football-specific stuff. We use Hudl and different emails to communicate our playbook and our offseason workouts and just keeping in touch.
“We try not to demand too much of their time because we were hoping that they get all their school work done and everything.”
Bartoszek said the school administration is working under direction from the state on reopening. He hopes reaching Phase 4 will allow some kind of meetings to begin over the summer.
“I think just from a fitness and conditioning perspective, early on especially, it’s going to be really important just to work out,” he said, “just to get together, even if it’s outside and it’s just some running and shield work, that’s going to be most important. I do think that there is going to be an emphasis to try to dive right back into normal, but we’re really not going to be there with the physical or mental side of things. We’re going to need a couple weeks to decompress, get back together, start communicating in person.
“I’m hoping we can do (that) as soon as Phase 4 hits, but there still might be some restrictions on the percentage, the amount of people that are allowed in a building or at a workout at once.”
Bartoszek said the Warriors are planning on adding a game in Week 0 (Sept. 4-5), as allowed under the new NYSPHSAA rule, but acknowledged the team will likely need to return to workouts by July to do so.
“I would say of all the years that we’ve been pushing for this, this is probably the year that we could least use it because as much as we want more football, this year might inhibit our ability to get our kids ready,” he said. “Now if we can get back together in July we’re going to be fine. The season doesn’t start until Aug. 24 so we’re just going to need a good month to get with our kids and start building up their conditioning.”
— After a year at his alma mater, the former Franklinville/Ellicottville coach sees strong numbers after a light senior football class of five in 2019, from varsity down to JV and now modified.
“Our youth programs have been healthy for a few years now,” he said. “I think at least in the near future we’re going to have a good-size roster. That’s part of the comeback here. When we get these kids back, we can’t put them in a position where they’re overly stressed — physically, mentally. They’re going to want to get back into things and I’m hoping that these kids, our athletes, are anxious. We might see better participation numbers then we ever have in terms of just getting to the work out. Because I think everyone has a little bit of cabin fever.”