Our coaches are just as passionate about Augustana and the Vikings as our student-athletes, so we caught up with Vikings Men's Basketball Head Coach, Dave Drabiuk, to find out what this year brings to the court and how he has adjusted to teaching courses online.
Q: What challenges does this year bring for you and the team?
DD: Of course, the obvious challenge is trying to train and maintain a team in a pandemic which is probably the ultimate challenge. Another significant challenge, or another way to look at that challenge, is to say that lack of physical proximity is a significant impediment when it comes to maintaining team chemistry. It was important that we do video conferencing sessions over the summer when we were all in quarantine and isolation so that we could stay in touch and we really started to learn the value of being in touch with others and staying in communication for a variety of reasons. One of the lessons that we learned was that there are alternatives and varieties in the way that we can stay in touch as a team and in the way we can communicate with each other. The way we can share community and chemistry had to change for the circumstances and I am very proud of our team and appreciative of our team leadership for the way we met this head-on and searched for solutions instead of simply complaining about the problem.
Another huge challenge for us is that we will not be able to have regular competition (the ACAC recently cancelled all of the 2020-2021 season). Our athletes, our coaches and our whole system is wired towards competition. We practice and we train and we prepare for a competition which right now isn't as obvious on the horizon and is not going to happen as frequently, if at all, so there are unique challenges. How do we keep our motivation and how do we keep focusing on improvement when the "why" is a really big question right now? Finding our "why" this year — why are we practicing? Why are we preparing? Why are we trying to improve? Answering these questions will be a great challenge but I think it will definitely pay some dividends if we can discover those "why"s in the absence of competition as the simple answer.
Another unique challenge is that many of our athletes would look for some part-time work during the year because we're not able to give them full scholarship amounts. A lot of those part-time jobs are not available and a lot of our donors are not in the position to continue to support our program right now because of the economic impact of COVID-19. We know that we are all affected and we are all feeling the effects of this pandemic in our own way. Empathy and openness in the face of significant upheaval might be the greatest challenge beyond our team.
Q: What opportunities does this year present for you and the team?
DD: One of the greatest opportunities we have as a team this year is the opportunity to experience, practice and learn resilience. We get the opportunity to do that as a team now that we are back on campus and we are getting to train as a team. The opportunity to grow and develop as individuals and as a team and for our players to experience skill development in an environment that will not judge success and failure based on the results of competition but rather on their level of improvement is both a great opportunity and a unique challenge.
The opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to have this circumstance can never be overlooked and I hope this unique year gives us a chance to really step back and look at what's important to us individually and as a team and that we take full advantage of the opportunity to really discover our "why". This is a great opportunity to use a "gap year" philosophy for self-improvement and rediscovering our passions and motivations.
Q: You also teach at Augustana. What classes are you currently teaching?
DD: I teach in the Social Sciences Department in the discipline of Kinesiology. I am currently teaching a class on movement activities for youth. I also teach an introduction to football activity class, an introduction to basketball activity and lecture class and a course that's new for me this year on the nature and structure of games.
Q: How has teaching this year been different? How have you adjusted to those changes?
DD: Teaching this year has been incredibly different from past years and a very unique experience for me. I am learning a lot about remote teaching and the tools available to make that environment work. The challenge of taking the in-person classroom experience away and "seeing" everyone over an online platform has been new and unique for me and more than a bit of a challenge in terms of how I set the tone for the class and how I accomplish my goals for the course. I've tried my best to adjust by using some technology options available to us. I am intrigued to see how much of what I am learning now can be applied to in-person delivery moving forward. I think the real answer to how well I've adjusted would be to ask the students and hopefully, they feel that we've done the job this year of covering the course material and they're still excited about the content and subject they chose.
Q: What did you do this summer to pass time during quarantine?
DD: This summer was a very interesting summer. It was definitely the most "free time" I have had in many years. By that I mean time away from summer basketball camps and summer programs that I've always enjoyed and I am looking forward to getting back to when we can. We spent a lot of our time during summer quarantine the same way I imagine many of us did; doing home renovations and other improvement projects around our house. Some of them have been waiting for years for me to have time to really roll up my sleeves and get going on them and what do you know, suddenly we had time for all of them! It was fun, it was different and certainly gave a great feeling of accomplishment. One of the really neat things about the quarantine in the summer was just the gift of time.
In addition to our projects around the house, I got a chance to do a lot of professional development because so much of it moved to online delivery and was more readily available. Some of the cost constraints around travel and accommodation and even some of the time constraints to get from one conference to another were all pretty much eliminated so I got a chance to experience a lot of really great professional development. I took the time to reach out to some professional contacts from the past that maybe I wasn't staying in touch with as well as I should have and had a chance to meet some new coaches and experts in other fields and establish some relationships there so it really was like a little bit of a gap year in terms of my learning and the opportunity to do professional development on a very concentrated level which was really cool.
And of course, like everyone else, I got myself involved in finding some new recipes and testing them out and trying my hand at expanding my baking repertoire. Generally enjoying the time at home and the different pace and really taking it as an opportunity to enjoy what maybe I wasn't able to in the past just because of the busy summer schedule that we tend to keep.
Q: What are you looking forward to this year for you and your team?
DD: Mostly I'm looking forward to sharing the experience in this opportunity as a team. There will be so many ways that our players can learn from this unique circumstance that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. In the short-term, our players will get the opportunity to practice and learn and improve in ways that are not normal for our traditional season timeline. I'm looking forward to looking back on this year and feeling that we did the best that we could with the cards that we were dealt.
You can hear more from Vikings athletes and coaches Friday mornings with Scott Michell on New Country 98.1.