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First-year Regina Rams head coach presented with unique challenge amid COVID-19

It’s been an unexpected start to the job for University of Regina Rams interim head coach Mark McConkey.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has created a bit of a challenge for McConkey, who replaced Steve Bryce after he stepped away as head coach in February.

With the Rams annual spring camp already cancelled and no way of getting the team together in person, McConkey said his approach heading into the upcoming season is a bit different than normal.

“I’m used to being at the university sharing an office and a locker room with about 100 players, student athletes, seeing them every day. It is a bit different, but it’s kind of becoming the new normal,” McConkey said.

“We’re having weekly positional meetings through Zoom, watching film and trying to make the most out of the situation.”

Despite not physically being around the players, McConkey said technology has kept the team connected in a time of self-isolation.

“They’re not doing mandatory workouts together, it’s all on their own through home programs,” McConkey said. “It’s a little different … but we are trying to be prepared for when we get the green light to come back.”

McConkey spent the past four seasons working under Bryce. During that span, he served as the team’s offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and academic coach. He said he was caught off guard when he heard Bryce wouldn’t be returning for the 2020 season, calling the news “bittersweet.”

“It was a bit of a surprise for sure. Steve and I worked closely together for four years and built quite the relationship. I learned so much from him. It was a great experience working with him,” McConkey said.

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“Sad to see him leave, but obviously excited for the new opportunity that I have in front of me.”

McConkey joined the Rams organization as a player in 2007 and became one of the school’s most prolific receivers.

More than anything, he wants to give back to a program that has given so much to him, he said.

“I owe my life to this program and to the coaches before me,” McConkey said. “I love all the players in the locker room, we got a great group of players, a great coaching staff, great support staff, great board of directors. I know this program can be one of the top programs in U Sports and I feel like I can help lead us and get us there.”

The Rams finished 3-5 in 2019, placing fifth in the Canada West standings just missing out on playoffs. The team did, however, finish their season on a high note with two-straight wins.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities. To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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