Coaching in a Pandemic: Spotlight on Ryan Hunter-Simms

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Our first full semester during the Covid-19 pandemic is coming to a close and sports have yet to start. With high hopes, Ryan Hunter-Simms, from Highland, California is onto his 4th year as the assistant track and field coach and continues to push his athletes towards their ever-expanding goals. The Northwest Conference has yet to declare a cancellation of the 2021 track season and Simms plans on a successful season despite Covid-19. 

  Simms, is a former track and field athlete at Oregon University with a PAC-12 Discus Champion title. Having an athletic background and a love for his athletes, Simms was heartbroken when the news first broke that the 2020 track and field season would be cut short. Although, he knew from that moment on he needed to be able to adapt and keep looking forward in order to get his athletes the returning season they deserved. 

The NCAA recently announced they would be giving additional eligibility to college athletes affected by the pandemic. Simms sees that as a huge opportunity and a positive outcome from Covid-19. 

“I love it, because the longer someone can be a part of a program the better. It gives student athletes something to look forward to and not like they got robbed of an opportunity and it’s something to keep people involved in the sport as long as they could be.”

Simms encouraged his athletes to stay active, but also stressed the importance of a mental break over quarantine. Throwers resumed practice in August and have been working hard ever since. Simms explained how the thrower groups were lucky because they are a small group of thirteen and usually only practice in groups of 3-4 people at a time so the pandemic didn’t alter their training. 

As far as coaching this unusual season, Simms believes the pandemic has created two ends of the spectrum for coaching plans. Some coaches have been more strategic in their planning, like trying to make certain groups based on how many people can train and then having a structured plan for those groups, or simply going with the flow. Simms went with a different method of coaching plans: organized chaos. 

“For myself it’s been just kind of organized chaos and a general ideal I want to do or that I have, but not everything has to stick to what is on paper or what is written down and you can be more flexible and not so structured.” 

Covid-19 has brought greater appreciation and realization into the lives of  people all around the world. We can all agree that Covid-19 has changed people indefinitely, especially in the world of sports. Simms believes the time away from competition will only drive athletes to greater heights.

“The best advice is to keep looking towards the future and realizing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you have to be a part of the process that’s moving forward and not what’s moving backwards.” Simms said “I guess just being a part of the solution and not the problem.” 

Simms has a very positive outlook that we should all strive to have in such unpredictable and unusual times. With the dedication and commitment Simms and his track team have shown, we can be certain that they are moving towards a successful season and future. — Emily Rutkowski

Photo: Hunter-Simms is in his fourth season as a member of the Pacific University cross country and track and field coaching staff.


Major: Journalism

Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

Hobbies: soccer, track, being outside, hiking, writing

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