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Penn State Football: Without Families Around and a Long Season Ahead, Office Morale a New Challenge

by on October 14, 2020 8:00 PM

Across every sport there are challenges in a COVID-19 climate. The celebrations are different, the meetings are different, the feeling at the game is different.

Take Penn State's football building for example, a place where the family members of everyone on staff are a common sight. Go to a practice and someone's wife or children are standing on the sideline, sometimes playing catch or watching their husbands or fathers go to work.

But everything has changed now. The building is closed off to the world; family members are stuck at home waiting for a long day to end. In the case of James Franklin, his family is in Florida, riding out the fall and winter in quarantine as his daughter Addison looks to avoid the crowds, a high-risk for COVID-19 after being diagnosed with sickle cell disease as a young child.

So there is a question of how one beats Indiana and Ohio State, but there's also another question: how do you keep morale high in a football building that has lost some of its family vibes?

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"We've been talking about that as a staff a lot," Franklin said on Wednesday night. "You know we've had some issues - it's been hard on our wives; it's been hard on the kids."

Nobody exactly has it easy, but for the three new assistant coaches on Penn State's staff and all the incoming freshmen there is an entirely new level to things. You don't know anyone, and in some cases maybe you've never even met you husband's boss in person. You're trying to feel like you're in a new home, but nothing feels like home just yet.

"The new staff and the new players are having a very different Penn State experience than normal," Franklin added. "You know [defensive line coach] John Scott, I haven't even met his wife face to face. I haven't even met his children face to face. We've got a pretty good way of going about our business around here and including our families as much as possible."

There are other little things that are lost along the way. No more trips for freshmen to Franklin's house for dinner, fewer team-building activities away from the Lasch Building. In a lot of ways the fun is gone. Certainly the football is still there and the hard work has not lessened, but things feel a bit more business-like than before. No more children running through the halls, no more wives showing up for a post-practice dinner in the office.

In truth, that's the way it is for most everyone else. Few have the enjoyment of a surprise visit from their kids in the office, then again, few are working as many high-stakes, long-hour weeks. Coaching is not curing COVID, but it's not without its unique stresses and taxes.

And getting through a season means staying sane away from the field. Something all the more challenging these days.

"There's always that balance, major college football is a lot of hard work but you want to make sure that you're having fun with it too, and finding that balance and it's it's been difficult," Franklin said. "There's been more things that we've had to work through, there's a direct correlation to COVID and how we're living right now."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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