BOZEMAN — Kane Ioane took out his phone and set up yet another one of his workouts.
Montana State players often weren’t alone when they were lifting weights. Ioane was working out at the same time with one of these routines that he can follow along with.
The MSU defensive coordinator is still exercising with these videos, though he’s at home these days.
“I am a Beachbody guy, man,” Ioane said, referring to the company that produces at-home exercise routines like P90X.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Bobcat athletes can’t gather in large groups to lift weights like they used to. But Ioane doesn’t want that to prevent his players from keeping in shape.
So he’s stuck to his routine, though slightly altered. He sends videos of himself working out to his team, maintaining his presence as if nothing has changed.
He isn’t the only one. Ioane said MSU defensive line coach Byron Hout has been working out on his patio, and head coach Jeff Choate has set up his own gym at home as well.
The coaches are trying to motivate each other, and they hope their mentality resonates with the rest of the program.
“Hopefully the players will see that and go, ‘You know what? If Coach Ioane is figuring out a way to try and stay in shape then I better do the same,’” Ioane said. “That’s all we can really do as coaches is try and model the type of behaviors that we want to see throughout this type of situation. Daily routines.”
Montana State athletes, whether they usually participate during the spring and their season was canceled or they compete in the fall and their seasons are in question, all have reasons to stay in shape. But the pandemic has forced them to remain flexible yet inventive.
MSU coaches, by NCAA rules, can’t force their athletes to exercise if they don’t want to while social-distancing measures are in place. They can only hope to compel them to stay healthy, to remain motivated and ready for whenever they are allowed to gather for practices again.
Ioane is embracing the challenge of finding ways to make at-home workouts enjoyable. He hopes he provides his players a means to cope and mentally escape, even if it’s only for a 20-minute ab blast exercise.
“It’s a lot of fun, it really is,” he said. “If you can’t have fun in a time like this, then it’s just gonna make you miserable. So you’ve got to find that silver lining in the positivity someway and make sure in turn you’re doing that for your players as much as you can, too.”
Bobcats head strength and conditioning coach Alex Willcox constructed a voluntary workout program with no mandate or obligation to use them. He utilized YouTube videos to make technique and instructions clear for the athletes when they’re alone. The programs were also tailored for various levels of equipment available, from strictly body-weight workouts to exercises made with a full gym in mind.
Willcox hopes his program emphasizes the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyle habits from home.
"We have designed the program to be more volume-based with a greater emphasis being placed on work capacity, hypertrophy and movement,” he told MSU Sports Information. “This has been done as a way to accommodate for lack of equipment as well as make it safer to do by oneself or without coaching. There has also been an emphasis placed on building a base level of conditioning so we are in shape to begin training when on-campus workouts resume.”
Well before the outbreak, Choate publicly preached about the value of accountability within the program. At the beginning of 2019 fall camp, for example, MSU senior Bryce Sterk didn’t feel a young player took the practice field with enough energy, so he forced the underclassman to turn back around and try again with some hustle.
When coaches can’t directly influence the players’ behavior, Choate wanted them to push each other and themselves to improve.
Ioane emphasized discipline. If the Bobcats remain in shape before practices resume, he believes they will be in a better position to succeed as all college football teams are facing the same issues during the pandemic.
“Obviously we’re going to encourage our guys as much as we can to basically stick to our team values, our core values which makes our culture and makes us who we are,” Ioane said. “You talk about a test of your core values? There’s nothing better than adversity to test your core values. This is the ultimate adversity. And so we’ll see when all this is said and done how true to our core values our team is going to be.”
The Bobcats’ spring practices were canceled, and the start to summer and fall workouts could still be pushed back. So now that athletes don’t have those established schedules, Willcox’s exercise plans may be vital. His suggestions could play a key role in the outcome of the fall season, whenever it does resume.
“Training during this tough and difficult time will give our student-athletes the best chance to bridge the gap between now and when they have the opportunity to return to campus and train,” Willcox said. “This gives them the best opportunity to maximize their athletic potential and reduce their risk of injury when it is deemed safe to return to campus and resume training.”
Online communication has been vital. MSU coaches for a variety of sports have met via video conferences. MSU senior football player Kyle Finch said coaches have still taught scheme and fundamentals by these means.
“It’s definitely different, something you have to adapt to no matter who you are,” Finch said in an interview provided by MSU. “Everyone in the world’s going through it, but it’s not bad. It’s going well so far.”
In March, MSU women’s basketball head coach Tricia Binford said finding ways to keep players conditioned is the toughest challenge her program would face during the spring.
Though the Bobcats may be limited in what they can do, Binford still hoped to find ways to keep active during stay-at-home orders. She wanted them to remain engaged even if they’re isolated.
“I think we can still be growing and challenging our minds,” Binford said. “I just want to make sure that I’m still supporting all of our student-athletes really the right way right now.”
MSU director of track and field Lyle Weese, who focuses on distance events, said his runners could still put in miles outside while following social-distancing guidelines. MSU programs face varying limitations, however.
Women’s golf head coach Brittany Basye acknowledged her team is facing challenges. Aside from chipping and putting, golf is a more difficult sport to practice at home. Some of her players could still play at courses they were members at, but Basye could not force that on them.
Weese said one of his team’s obstacles was the lack of access to strength training equipment. Some athletes have access to old dumbbells at home while others have created makeshift weights to utilize.
“They’re pretty creative,” Weese said of his athletes. “Very creative and resilient. They work the best they can.”
The Bobcats hope they can return to normal soon. Gov. Steve Bullock laid out a phased plan two weeks ago to reopen the state, but it didn’t include a timetable.
MSU director of athletics Leon Costello wants the MSU football team, for example, to make up lost time and combine the missed spring practices with fall camp before the season opener. That would mean practices would resume in mid-July with volleyball and cross-country beginning soon after.
Ioane said summer team activities are crucial for offseason preparation. But there’s no guarantee of that happening as normal.
For now, all he can do is film his home workouts and hopes he inspires his players.
“Nobody really has the answers for what the future holds in the next six months,” Finch said. “... But I know we’re all excited. The coaches are absolutely excited to get everybody back together, whenever that may be. But until then it’s definitely on us to make the best of it and hopefully gain some sort of slight edge.”