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Kalani Sitake - BYU Football
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Kalani Sitake Focused On Well-Being Of Mankind During Coronavirus Pandemic

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake spoke with members of the media to discuss how his program is responding to the Coronavirus outbreak. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – With so much uncertainty in the world today due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s hard to project anything beyond the current moment we are in right now. BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake is not worried about games starting on time this fall, he’s just focusing on something far more important.

“I think the most important thing for everyone to understand is that human lives matter more than anything right now,” said Kalani Sitake via teleconference with the media. “More than my job, more than anybody else’s job and definitely more than sport. So we’re focused on trying to take care of mankind and be sensitive and be as much support as we can to others. So that’s what we’re focused on.”

Every major sporting event in the spring and summer has either been postponed or canceled. There’s no official word on what will happen with the start of the college football season this September, but with the Summer Olympics being pushed back to 2021. It raises some concerns that college football could be impacted as well. But it’s still too early to tell.

“I’m not really worried about that,” Sitake said. “I’m more focused on here and now and the day to day, you know? Focus on the present. Worrying about stuff in August in March does us no good. So right now, when things change so much hourly, it’s hard for us to project and forecast that much. So focusing on the here and now and stay in the present and then if we do our part as people I think it’ll all work itself out and it will be fine.”

What Kalani Sitake is doing during social distancing

During this time away Sitake has found himself watching old highlights of games like everyone else and connecting with family more. But at the same time, still handling team meetings and everything that goes into the daily grind of running a college football program.

Since spring practices were suspended earlier this month, one-third of the players in the program have traveled back to their hometowns to be with family. Coaches like Sitake are facing an unprecedented challenge to keep kids in good health both mentally and physically in these difficult times.

“We already had that in place and send out the workout to our players. We are having to modify it a little bit knowing that they won’t be able to go to the gym. So we are having them do more of running and agility based things,” said Sitake. “We have those workouts out to our players and we are updating them daily. They have a basic checklist for them to get done but at the same time, we are being mindful of what is happening currently in the world today.”

Taking care of student-athletes mental health

The pandemic of the Coronavirus COVID-19 is having as much of an impact on the mental health of humans around the world.

“For the mental health part, we have been in touch with our counselors that are available for us through the athletic department and they have been constantly keeping touch with all of our players, coaches, staff and whoever needs support at this time.

“The leaders have done the transition well and have made it really easy to be able to satisfy the players’ needs whether it’s academically or socially with the connections that we have with our players and our coaches while also being able to stay with them mentally. The academics part, that has always been a huge support for us. Everyone is getting the help that they need.”

Difficult times are bringing out the best in people

On social media, BYU Football has been highlighting how some players are handling quarantined life. Most are at home getting creative to pass the time while others are catching gators. Yeah, that’s not a typo, gator catcher, courtesy of wing tight end Kyle Griffitts.

But ultimately, taking care of one another from all walks of life is most important and Kalani Sitake believes this difficult time is bringing out good in those around him.

“I think rallying around each other has been a positive thing about this. I have seen amazing things happen with Cougar Nation and in our community whether its supporting local businesses and helping them continue to function or people with their families and spending more time with them. Doing things like TikTok and dance challenges and all this. I’ve seen it in my own neighborhood with families spending more time with each other. It’s a positive that has really helped us. It gives our players the opportunity to go home and realize the most important thing in their life.

“Once things resume and get back to normal I think there will be players that are more committed and are more committed to their goals and not taking things for granted. I think the sense of gratitude is there. Luckily, we have been given that message from the President of the University and our athletic director. Tom Holmoe has done an amazing job of instructing our coaches and assistants. Our specific mission to our players is to take care of themselves, take care of their families and each other. That’s been a really cool rallying cry for everyone and I’ve seen some really positive things from them. I’ve been really impressed with them—just all the people—but specifically Cougar Nation. I just love all of them.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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