COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — His job is to develop Ohio State football players into elite competitors, pushing their strength, speed and mental toughness. It’s hard to do that effectively over the phone.
“It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career, no doubt.” says Mickey Marotti, Ohio State’s director of sports performance.
Marotti spoke with reporters Wednesday morning as he attempts to keep tabs on approximately 100 football players scattered across the country. He’s checking on players nearly every day to keep up with their progress, and that’s quite a chore.
Each player is at home and has wildly-ranging access to equipment and training space. “It’s, no doubt, twice as busy as if we were still in the Woody (Hayes Center)… “ he says. “In 31 years of coaching I’ve been away from a weight room more than seven days at a time.”
Marotti and his staff have shipped players resistance bands so they have access to some resistance training at home. Some players have access to full gym equipment. Because the workouts are voluntary, the OSU strength staff cannot require players to send in video of their workouts or oversee their workouts through Zoom meetings or other virtual methods. Marotti says they’ve developed an App for players to track their workouts, weight and overall progress. They’ve emphasized body-weight exercises and core muscle work because they can be done in limited space and with no equipment.
“The good thing is we’ve got some great leadership. When this thing’s over…. You’re either better or you’re worse than when this thing started. So I put a challenge out to our team and our staff, everybody.” Marotti says. “Teams we’re going to play, are they working harder than you are?”
Desperate times can sometimes spark innovation, and Marotti says he’s seen evidence of that from many of his players. Tight end and New York native Jeremy Ruckert worked with his dad to build a squat rack out of wood at their house. Offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere was doing pullups off the side of his house, but then promptly pulled the house gutters to the ground. Marotti says Petit-Frere’s mother was not pleased. Offensive lineman Matt Jones, from New York city, took milk jugs filled with water and sand to get in some weight training at home.
The pandemic quarantine began three practices into OSU’s spring football season, meaning they’ve had significantly less time as a team than some of their competitors.
“I think it’s a test of our program’s culture. What our team is and how accountable they are to each other. It’s an opportunity for growth.” Marotti says.
Marotti says whenever the team can return to campus and prepare for the season, they’ll need ample time to slowly bring them up to speed and limit the risk of injury.
He says they’ll go through medical testing to make sure they are healthy, and then undergo body fat testing to see how they’ve maintained their conditioning during the quarantine.