For Georgia Tech's Geoff Collins, Trust is Key in Navigating Through COVID-19

Ashley Barnett

Communication has been pivotal for Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins and his football team as the nation continues to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the ACC cancelled all winter/spring athletic activities for the duration of the 2019-20 academic year. With spring football practice just beginning to turn its wheels prior to the cancellations, technology has been a major factor in keeping the Yellow Jackets' progression on path . 

"I think the biggest thing is trying to be creative and innovative and find ways to best handle the situation," Collins said. "Safety first, but then the best way to make sure the unbelievable gains that our football program has made - obviously over the last year - but in particularly, the last three months... to keep that momentum going.

"I do think the way we kind of set our communication is very technologically driven... kind of helps us navigate through this unprecedented situation... It's a new world we're trying to make sure we're handling."

For Collins and his players, the communication has already been instilled in the culture of the football program. From group texts to social media. 

"It's really cool they get to continue organically," Collins said regarding the group texts among the staff and the team. "We separate our team into ten different offseason teams. So all those captains of those teams, I'm in a group message with. We are just constantly in touch with our guys and motivating them, inspiring them."

Workouts are crucial for any student-athlete wanting to maintain their health and shape. Tech's strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla has made a sample of workouts available via Twitter for not only the student-athletes, but for fans to try at home as well. 

"We can't make any of the workouts mandatory and we don't," said Collins. "But I think the cool thing about having such a young, energetic coaching staff, is our coaches are actually doing the work outs that Coach Lew (Caralla) and his staff provide to us. I think that's motivating and inspiring when our players know that the coaches are in it with them like we always are... I just think that trust that's been built, and the bonds that have been built, helps us navigate this time with class and with care." 

The trust that's been sealed into the program doesn't follow one direction. It not only comes from Collins to the players, but the players to Collins as well.

"The challenge is, now that the guys are away from us, how they sustain those gains, size and strength," Collins said. "The playbook piece, they have access. They all have iPads, they all have laptops. They have access to our entire film library. There's cut-ups available to them so they can watch... we have comment sections exactly what positionally needed to have happened on certain plays. That's what we do in season. It's what we do out of season. Our players have access to all of that tape." 

As the temporary recruiting dead period stays in place until at least April 15th - in which the NCAA will then reevaluate - Collins remains proactive in his recruiting. Not disclosing any details, Collins said their recruitment is innovating and cutting edge.

"We probably had an average of 100 recruits at practice everyday," Collins said regarding the early spring practices that were held. "Then the days we weren't at practice, there were recruits and their families and coaches coming in and out of the building. That's the really cool thing about being in Atlanta is just the access for big time high school football players to come through and see us and meet us. We were able to, in that two week period, get a lot of traffic through." 

Many questions remain about the status of college sports as the future is still unknown. For Collins, he believes the NCAA and the ACC could potentially make some accommodations when football begins again. 

"Those thoughts do creep in as to what it's going to look like moving forward when we have this outbreak hopefully under control," Collins said. "What it will look like, I don't think anybody really knows what it will look like. I'm sure there's going to be some accommodations made to make sure the development of our players, the development of our program, and all other programs across college football, I'm sure there will be some sort of accommodations made. Whether it be preseason camp or different things that might happen over the summer... those conversations will happen" 

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