Uniquely hired Schwager happy for sense of normalcy

The header of new Northwestern State strength coach Erik Schwager’s Twitter profile has been “Estrengthcoach” since Schwager was hired just days before college sports across the country ceased because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Schwager spent his first three months communicating workout plans and demonstrating exercises digitally and through social media, but that changed this week.

More than 10 NSU student-athletes from five sports returned to campus for voluntary workouts this week, the first time Schwager has been face-to-face with his Demons and Lady Demons.

“I’m not one that likes to do a lot of social media or post videos, so it’s nice to coach these kids in person and get them ready for their season,” said Schwager, who spent four years at Newberry College and has experience at places like Princeton and Michigan State among others. “I was so excited to work with the kids in person … that you have to make sure you don’t go overboard with the kids coming back and not knowing what they’ve done all summer.

“It’s been a blast the past couple of days being on the (football) field and in the weight room.”

The strength and conditioning staff as well as the athletics training staff were prepared to start voluntary workouts Monday, but COVID-19 test results didn’t return in time.

The NCAA began allowing voluntary workouts starting June 1, but NSU wanted to ensure that all procedures and safety measures reflect state and national guidelines to reduce the risk of infection.

NSU collaborated with the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center to author guidelines, which includes COVID-19 antibody testing for all student-athletes prior to starting workouts.

“We were geared up and ready to go Monday, and it was a letdown that those test results weren’t back, but we put the health and safety of our student-athletes above all else,” said Schwager, who also introduced new assistant strength coach Derek Stein in person to student-athletes this week. “We started Tuesday and really got after it.

“I’m impressed with how the kids came back and how they are adapting to our system and training. The kids have been really responsive even when we didn’t have them on campus, and a lot of kids have reached out to me about workouts and what they can and can’t do. We’re just having fun right now, and I can’t wait for July and August when we can hopefully get back closer to normal.”