By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Aaron Gibbons fills many roles in Troy High School’s athletics and even at the school in general.
But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one is coming to the forefront — being the glue that holds a lot of it together.
Gibbons, a guidance counselor who is also Troy’s athletic department’s strength and training coach and the throwers coach for the track and field team, has been continuing to post workouts on his Instagram page that the Trojans’ student-athletes can do even while stuck at home during Ohio’s “Stay at Home” order, and in doing so has helped the school’s students still feel a connection to the staff despite the fact that the state’s schools have been closed since mid-March and will remain that way until at least May.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can,” Gibbons said. “I felt a big responsibility to help these kids and make sure they still had things to do during this. You can only sit around the house for so long until it starts to wear on you, and being physically active is a great way to help deal with the different stresses brought on by this pandemic.”
Ohio’s schools have been closed since March 13 on the order of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. They are tentatively scheduled to reopen on May 4, but until then all spring sports have been postponed.
“Things are going as good as they can be given the circumstances,” Gibbons said. “It’s crazy to think that we should be coming up on the halfway point of track season right now. Having to stay home and not do anything, it’s a big change for me.”
In addition to the closure of schools, state officials put in place a “Stay at Home” order for all citizens and closed non-essential business — including all gym facilities. So, in the face of everyone being cooped up in their homes, Gibbons has found ways to keep students engaged and in shape by posting daily and weekly workout videos and programs on his Instagram page, “troyhs_strength_conditioning.”
“I’ve tried to be as creative as I can be with it,” Gibbons said. “Some of our kids have a full gym at home or some equipment, and others don’t have anything. So I’ve tried to design workouts with things that anyone would have around and available.
“This week, I posted the full week’s workouts at the beginning. But before that, I was putting out a video every day because I felt it was more personable because they could still hear me talk, and I had a lot of kids reach out to let me know how much they appreciated that.”
And it’s not just current Troy students that have benefited, either.
“The thing that surprised me was that I’ve had quite a few graduates reach out,” Gibbons said. “They’re out at college or elsewhere and still follow the Instagram page and needed something to do to stay active, and they’ve told me how much they appreciate it. So that was surprising and nice.”
Gibbons has been Troy’s program’s not-so-secret weapon for years as the strength and conditioning coach — particularly the football team, which has won four straight division championships and reached the playoffs four straight years. He’s also seen a lot of success as the track and field team’s throwers coach, sending five different athletes to the Division I state meet — including Lenea Browder, a three-time qualifier and three-time state champion.
“What we do really is the basics, but we do them really well,” Gibbons said. “A lot of people try to keep up with the latest cutting-edge trends or the new flavor of the week. But when it comes down to it, the basics get the results.”
But it’s not necessarily the techniques or workouts themselves that have helped Gibbons be so successful at Troy. His background as a guidance counselor and the relationships he’s been able to form with the school’s students have given him that extra edge.
“It doesn’t matter how smart or successful you are. If you can’t deliver your message and get people to buy in, it’s useless,” he said. “To make it so these workouts are easy for the kids to understand and enjoyable for them, you’ve got to do those things first.
“I got hooked spending a lot of time reading and professionally developing with sports psychology. It’s been around a while, but in the last eight or so years, it’s really been big. A lot of professional and college teams have a sports psychologist on staff now. And because of my background, I have an interest in it already, so I probably spend just as much time studying that as I do techniques.”
And with the state’s students all being out of class for almost a full month and its spring athletes still not knowing whether or not they’ll have a season at all — the regular season is tentatively scheduled to begin on May 9, but it would not happen if the governor orders schools closed for longer — understanding what they’re going through is just as key as knowing how to put together a workout routine.
“The hardest part for me has been being away from the kids. And I feel for the seniors in particular,” Gibbons said. “For most of these kids, sports is their first experience in life where they set a goal, work for it a long time, overcome obstacles and adversity and learn to be a team player and work with others. These kids have been working on these goals for a long time, and this is it.
“Take Lenea, for example. She’s a senior that has a chance to cement her legacy at Troy. She has three state titles already and could end her career with five this year — that would be really difficult for anyone to top or even match. She was a couple of feet off of the state record, too, and maybe could have gotten there this year. For that kind of kid not to get the opportunity, that’s what’s hard for me. They’ve been 100 percent committed and this is their time, and they’re not able to be out there.
“And you’ve also got kids like Maggie Welker. She’s a senior and has been my most consistent lifter for the past four years. She’s rock solid, has never missed a thing, and since track is her only sports she’s been working for this season since last season ended … then bam, the carpet is pulled out from under. It’s just tough.”
In the end, with everyone separated in their respective homes, Gibbons is doing what he can to keep everyone in shape and feeling connected.
“It’s just an unprecedented thing. It’s not like anyone else can relate. We’re just trying to do the best we can,” he said.
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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