Before BYU suspended all sports events due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, coach Kalani Sitake said the football program had already made the decision to hold back. The school first opted to close all practices to fans, only allowing essential personnel, but things quickly changed to a hard suspension.
Even now, a lot of BYU’s buildings have shorter business hours available and all fitness and recreation facilities are closed. Yesterday, the University received notification that a student enrolled in classes on campus this semester tested positive for COVID-19 — the first confirmed case from BYU’s campus community.
Through it all, Sitake has rolled with the punches, even if it meant having to lose out on the remainder of his spring football practices.
“Everything moved so quickly — it wasn’t even day to day, it was more hour to hour,” Sitake said.
In an alternate reality, Sitake would be finishing up his final spring practices this week and would be hosting Pro Day on Friday and the Spring Game on Saturday.
Instead, the Cougars were only able to complete six practice sessions before everything was shut down.
But even though plans have changed (and continue changing), Sitake said has been impressed with his athletes and the way they've handled the situation.
Throughout the country, there have been college students that have continued to ignore precautions or have followed through with their spring break plans because they believe young adults are less likely to contract the disease or will have milder symptoms if they do.
But as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, that hasn't necessarily been the case.
“We’re talking with them and staying in contact with them — communicating with them,” Sitake said. “But it’s our job as coaches and as mentors to help educate them as much as possible on the coronavirus, but also the adjustments that the transition that we’re making here. And we’re really not worried about football. I think the sports world will take care of itself … from this point on we’ve got to focus on today and really focus on what we’re trying to accomplish.”
As far as his job, Sitake said he's still pretty much doing what he would regularly be doing, with the exception of having practice. The only real difference is that he's doing it from home. Sitake's still preparing for the next season and coordinating with his staff and helping his athletes be prepared. Now, he just hopes to be able to be able to fit in more time with his family as they all try to self isolate as much as possible until things start to calm down.
“I’ve seen a lot of families hanging out together, seen a lot of people rallying around each other,” Sitake said. “[I’m] just being really impressed with mankind altogether, being able to take care of each other. And it gives me a lot of hope knowing that people care and people love each other.”