As the world continues to confront the issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbus Crew SC players spoke on dealing with the abrupt change in life and how they are coping both personally and professionally, and gave insight as to why they think maintaining team chemistry will not be an issue.
"The guys who were there already made it for us, the new guys, easy to fit directly into the team," said defender Vito Wormgoor to members of the media via a teleconference call late last week. "They made us comfortable, they made us one of them already."
Defender Jonathan Mensah, who captained the Club's first two games vs. NYCFC & Seattle Sounders FC, was one of the four players on that call and is a member of the Crew SC Leadership Council, a group of seven players who have been with the Crew for multiple seasons.
Mensah explained how the Leadership Council has taken initiative to ensure the group is interacting with players on a daily basis, whether it be soccer-related or otherwise.
"[The Leadership Council has] three, four guys that we check on every day. Just checking to see how guys are doing, physically and mentally," Mensah said. "Even someone like me, even though I’m on the leadership team, [Darlington Nagbe], [Gyasi Zardes] and other guys call me because I’m all by myself here. But we keep in touch."
As one can imagine, the respective environments for each player differ, as some are with their family while others, like Mensah, remain alone.
Thankfully, staying in constant contact has been easy to maintain, according to Nagbe.
"The chemistry of the group is great. I don’t think it’s a tough thing having to check in on each other, seeing how each others’ families are doing," Nagbe said. "As Coach [Caleb Porter] said, he is keeping in touch with the players too, he tries to get in touch with everyone. For us it’s simple. We have group chats, jokes every day. We’re in good spirits."
For now, the players have individualized fitness apps that help keep track of their physical upkeep, as everyone has had to resort to more bodyweight-oriented exercises as well as the more "traditional" means of getting aerobic exercise -- running outside, on the treadmill, etc.
"We have programs that our strength and conditioning staff has given us; on the treadmill, outside, a field, or pavement - however you got to get it done," said Nagbe. "A lot of the weight training has been bodyweight, things you can do at home."
Shifting from soccer to home life, players spoke about the normalcy that home life provides coupled with the obligation to practice what they preach when it comes to staying healthy and abiding by recommended guidelines.
"It is a strange situation. You need to be smart, you need to think what is the smartest thing to do, and what is the [easiest] way to do it," said Wormgoor, a father of three. "Especially with this distance between each other. Sometimes you would run with a teammate, but you have to have that distance between. At home, you have to figure out what you can do, what is able and how you will do it. It is quite difficult, but it is possible."
Nagbe mentioned how he has addressed the current climate with his young kids and how their inherent youthfulness brings a sense of enlightenment as well.
"Obviously with social distancing, when you do go on a walk, you have to tell them if you see other kids play, say hi and introduce yourself, but keep it moving and try to keep a good distance," he said. "We stay in the house as much as possible. Try to inform them as to what’s going on, simplify it as much as possible. But they’re kids at the end of the day, they won’t understand everything but that’s kind of a good thing for us. They can go about their days as a normal life."
Zardes, who is the father of three with a fourth on the way, agreed with Nagbe's description when it comes to monitoring play-time for the kids.
"It’s the same over here with my family. I try to explain it to my son because he’s a little older, but they don’t really grasp the concept of everything. So what I am doing is constantly keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer around, making sure they wash their hands, stay clean," he said.
"There’s been a bunch of people with the good weather so in the neighborhood a bunch of kids are out, but tell them just to keep their distance and that they can only play around our house, they can’t go to the neighbor’s house and play with the other kids."
As we all abide by professional healthcare recommendations, the Crew will continue to provide #StayAtHome-related content, including kids activities, home workouts and recipes designed by the team's support staff, historical footage and highlights, and more.