Teams finding unique ways to prepare for TBT in COVID era

 

By: Dylan Woods & Kathryn Maloney


The COVID pandemic has forced teams to get creative

As we draw closer to the start of TBT 2020, teams and players are preparing for a shot at glory this summer. However, preparations have looked a little different this year. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has needed to adapt to the circumstances and find a way to make the process before the games run as smoothly as possible.

With the help of technology, teams are beginning to finalize their rosters and gather together. Though the usual in-person meetings and practices were put on pause, teams are figuring out ways to make it work. Workout resources were limited too, making creativity necessary for tune-ups leading up to TBT.

Athletes everywhere are realizing how easy they had it before. Temporarily gone are the days when, to get a workout in, all you had to do was show up to a gym and use the provided equipment. With everything closed, innovation became a necessity.

Kevin Jones of Best Virginia had firsthand experience with this problem. Normally relying on the West Virginia basketball facility for workouts, Jones was left without a place to train for months.

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Fortunately, someone in his town was nice enough to build a makeshift gym that he has been using during this time. Even better, some of his Best Virginia teammates that live in the area have recently been able to join him as they get ready for TBT.

“We’re getting to be around each other and learn from each other which is very valuable,” Jones said.

Jones has not let the pandemic stand in the way of his regimen, still getting at it twice a day Monday through Friday. Now joined by some of his teammates, the emergency setup could give them a leg up on the competition. 

“I think so, for sure [it will help],” he said.

Like Jones, Herd That has been fortunate enough to have access to a place to practice. The group of Marshall alumni found a facility, organizing pickup games with 6-8 players about five times a week. 

This helped them stay in shape and build some chemistry going into the tournament. Nonetheless, general manager Ot Elmore still has concerns about being selected for TBT.

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“It’s kind of arrogant to assume you’ll get in,” said Elmore. “There’s a lot of really deserving teams. The new format is definitely going to make it more of a dog fight.”

When TBT announced the new 24-team format, teams became increasingly nervous about the smaller field. Billy Clapper, GM of Sideline Cancer, reiterated this sentiment, adding that it made it more difficult to keep his players upbeat. 

“While timelines and deadlines and thought processes are put on pause, I’m just trying to keep everyone excited,” he said. “I want as many people as possible to be able to have the TBT experience.”

One main problem GMs are facing is not knowing exactly which players are currently available. With so many different guys coming from so many different places, something as trivial as knowing who will suit up has become a little bit of a challenge.

Clapper found difficulty in the uncertainty of everything. Though he managed to bring back seven players from last year, the open-ended nature of the timing and location of the tournament served as an obstacle for the last few roster spots. 

during the TBT tournament at Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas

Until the location is announced (it has since been announced that TBT 2020 will be held in Columbus), Clapper feels somewhat stuck in the mud. He noted the difficulties of travel, hoping that his players would be able to drive rather than fly. Depending on individual circumstances, some may not be able to participate. 

Sideline Cancer has been competing in TBT since the beginning, and has never quite experienced a preparation period like this. 

“I hope our work over the last 6 years will help us get picked, especially after our success last year,” said Clapper. 

Michael Rejniak, GM of We Are D3, is trying to sort out potential alternates for his team in case one of his players gets the coronavirus. 

“In planning [for TBT this summer], you have to think one step ahead of the curve,” he said.

Rejniak also had some players who had to leave the team because of sudden commitments to their leagues overseas that normally wouldn’t be playing in the summer. A few players that had signed up instead will be back on their teams in Israel. And for the players that are signed up but are in various countries, they have to deal with the process of getting back into the United States.

Overall, the process has thrown many wrenches into things for every team. But in the end, communication any way you can get it is essential.

“The biggest thing was being transparent with all the players,” Rejniak said. [Telling them] what’s happening...and making sure everybody is comfortable.”