WVU Gymnastics Trying To Find Activities To Pass The Stay-At-Home Time
In normal times, college coaches are constantly on the go.
Practices, meetings, competitions, recruiting, etc., etc., etc.
It’s a cycle that keeps them in perpetual motion with minimal down time.
But these are not normal times, and college coaches suddenly find themselves with stay-at-home orders, just like most everyone else.
“I’m definitely not a sit-down type of person. Even my desk at the Coliseum is a stand-up desk,” chuckled WVU gymnastics coach Jason Butts. “I’m used to moving around a lot. I definitely am missing being around the team and the staff.
“How am I keeping myself sane?” he pondered. “Thankfully I do have a good set up (at his home), and I’ve become an expert on (video conferencing platforms) Zoom and Microsoft Teams and Group FaceTime and some of the others out there. I am missing the actual face-to-face interaction with people. I’m running a lot. I did have the quarantine beard, but that’s gone now. I listen to a lot of music and am reading a lot and am catching up on a lot of work. There are projects around the house that I’ve been putting off for years, and now I don’t have an excuse not to get them done. That’s what I’m doing.”
Butts is not married and doesn’t have family in Morgantown, so his house is quiet these days.
He does remain in regular, though remote, contact with his gymnasts, most of whom have left Morgantown and returned to their respective hometowns during this pandemic.
“During our season, we’re allowed 20 hours (of practice) per week. Five hours of that is dedicated to strength and conditioning, though really everything we do in our sport has a cardio element to it,” explained Butts, who took over as WVU’s head gymnastics coach in 2012 after spending the previous five seasons with the Mountaineers as an assistant coach under Linda Burdette-Good. “Right now a lot of the private clubs that our student-athletes trained at before they came to West Virginia, a lot of those are closed, so they don’t have access to them.
“Training for gymnastics is very hard to replicate without actually doing gymnastics,” the Athens, Georgia, native stated. “They are trying to be creative right now. Our rising seniors have done a great job, without any assistance from (WVU’s coaches) as we try to make sure we stay within all the rules, coordinating some of the workouts they are doing.
“Gymnastics is different from every other sport, in that we can’t throw up a basketball hoop or go sprinting here and there. You actually have to be doing gymnastics, and they are used to training and competing on very specific and safe equipment. It’s a very technical sport. It’s going to be a challenge once we get them back. They are keeping busy, but it’s a huge curveball for us.”
West Virginia’s gymnastics season came to a sudden end because of COVID-19, which shut down most of the athletic world in mid-March. WVU had one final regular season home meet on tap for March 13 when everything stopped, plus the Big 12 championships, which were slated for the Coliseum March 21, and the NCAAs (April 2-4 for regionals and April 17-18 for the semifinals and finals).
“We were just hitting our stride,” said Butts of his virus-shortened season that ended with West Virginia holding an 11-8 record. “We were doing well with our national qualifying scores. Then we got the news that the season was ending. It was devastating, particularly for our seniors. I just kept reminding our team that there was a bigger picture than just us.”
WVU had big plans for hosting the Big 12 Championships this spring, just the second time that event was coming to Morgantown (2014 being the other). Oklahoma, which was the No. 1 ranked team in the country in 2020 and had won the Big 12 title eight straight years, would have been the prohibitive favorite in the four-team event, which would have also included Denver and Iowa State.
Still it was an opportunity lost for Butts and his program.
“There is a rotation in terms of hosting the Big 12s,” explained Butts. “It’s done alphabetically, so Denver is supposed to host next year. We’ve expressed interesting in hosting again (in 2021), and I believe we have a strong shot at that but can’t confirm that 100 percent right now.”
The WVU Coliseum is also scheduled to serve as an NCAA Regional site for women’s gymnastics in 2021, so it could be a busy spring for Jason Butts and his Mountaineers.
Of course after being forced to stay home this spring, a busy 2021 is much desired.