X-Men football program ‘moving forward’

File Photo 2019
File Photo 2019

'Ability to adjust' key to dealing with lost AUS season
by Corey LeBlanc

Halftime adjustments are a key to success for any football team.

But, this season – an unprecedented one for university sport across Canada – the StFX X-Men and their Atlantic University Sport (AUS) counterparts have been required to make huge changes before ever taking a snap.

With the late-June decision to shelve the conference campaigns for fall sports, including varsity football, head coach Gary Waterman and his staff has been working with their student-athletes to help navigate the situation.

"The ability to adjust is going to be [a] key to success," the White and Blue bench boss offers.

With the uncertainty involved with an ongoing global pandemic, which led to the cancellation, Waterman notes the "initial plans" for the program this year may have to be modified at any time.

"It is going to be all about flexibility," he adds.

Waterman thinks "everyone is over the initial disappointment" of learning they would not be able to play for a conference title.

"It is all about moving forward," he says.

As the X-Men prepare to start doing more on-field activities – of course, with the required health measures to deal with Covid-19 front and center – the former X-Men player notes there is a "positive vibe" around the program.

"I think we have the right frame of mind," Waterman adds.

When this conversation with StFX Athletics took place, many X-Men players were in the middle of their mandatory two-week isolation period, a requirement for students returning to the Antigonish campus from outside the Atlantic bubble.

Because of that, Waterman notes Zoom meetings and other virtual gatherings continue to be key elements of the program, as they have been over the summer months.

"Everyone had been dedicated and we will continue to roll up our sleeves," he offers of the high level of dedication X-Men players and coaches have displayed.

Along with carrying on with combing through the team's playbook, Waterman explains, there are inspirational and motivational video sessions focused on "personal growth," ones aimed particularly at newcomers and freshman players.

When players wind down their quarantines, he adds, the X-Men will turn their attention to "modified" practices, which will be fashioned greatly by provincial health guidelines.

"It is going to look different, but we will be able to do some things," Waterman says.

Due to number restrictions, the entire team will not be able to gather for practices on their home turf at StFX Stadium.

Nevertheless, he notes, the X-Men will be able "to accomplish a lot of things."

When it comes to keeping players prepared physically, Waterman explains, there continue to be challenges, especially with strength training.

"That is more of a concern," he says, noting pandemic limitations do not have as deep of an effect on them being able to maintain and improve in other areas, such as speed.

Waterman adds his players have become "very creative," in trying to keep up in the weight room, while following social distancing requirements and other guidelines.

At this time of the year, he notes, the X-Men student-athletes normally have "full access" to campus training facilities.

Restrictions even apply to locker-room gatherings, where a great deal of bonding between new and returning players takes place.

"They aren't able to do that," Waterman says.

In finding other ways to reach those important goals, he notes his staff will rely on their veteran student-athletes "to make those connections," finding ways to interact in a "safe way."

"Our experienced players will have to reach out," Waterman says.