Roy Williams discussed how UNC basketball is attempting to improve as a young basketball team while mitigating the risk of COVID on his radio show last night.
Roy discussed how the game schedule adjustment has been a challenge. UNC typically will have one or two exhibition games before kicking off the season, or a secret scrimmage against another power conference school (like Villanova) to get the players some game action under live fire.
That did not happen this year and Roy feels that it has shown up in how his young team has played to begin the season, saying, “With six freshmen that we’re playing a lot, not having maybe two exhibition games... we didn’t have those trial runs for them to get used to the competition that they were facing.”
The Tar Heels have taken social distancing and mask wearing extremely seriously. The players are limited with their mask wearing while playing, so they mostly wear masks when they’re on the bench, or more accurately this season, in the seating area. Roy has been a stickler for mask wearing, and said, “I’ve worn my mask every day and every practice. You know, I wear it all the time and the rest of the coaches wear theirs all the time.” Coach does not believe in supporting his chin, like so many other coaches.
Besides separating the bench, the team (coaches included) wear sensors (in their uniforms or on a necklace) that record who they’ve been in close contact with and for how long. This data is compiled and can be extremely useful when conducting contact tracing, should any Tar Heel get COVID, or discovers that an opposing team that they’ve been face-to-face with has a positive case.
Traveling has been painful as well. Carolina usually takes six or seven managers with them on the road, but this year they only take two. The team spreads out on the plane. They get two buses so that players can spread out while traveling to the arena. Even dining isn’t cozy, as the team eats their meals at least six feet apart.
Coach seemed accepting of the hardships imposed by player safety, shrugging that it’s simply the price that needs to be paid in order to have a season of any kind. He did have a bit of disdain for one thing though...
“I hate it [Zoom] with a passion. I’ve done more Zoom than I’ll do for the rest of my entire life. I’m a teacher and doing a Zoom with 15 or 17 players... I like to see if they’re paying attention, I like to see their facial expressions when I say something. You can’t do that as easily on Zoom as you can when you’re teaching in the classroom or teaching on the court.”
Anyone who has had to deal with Zoom as part of remote learning or working from home can certainly understand that.