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How Jada Talley is staying sharp as Arizona soccer navigates coronavirus crisis

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Jada Talley has set the bar high for her senior season. She wants to break Arizona’s all-time scoring record, be the first Wildcat drafted into the NWSL and, of course, win as many as games as possible.

This whole coronavirus thing is kinda getting in the way of that.

Much of Arizona’s spring season was canceled as a result of the pandemic, robbing Talley and her teammates of weeks of workouts—and even a scrimmage against BYU, a top-10 team.

Those are valuable reps gone to waste for a team that will be breaking in at least five new starters in the regular season in the fall.

“I was just bummed,” said Talley, who netted a team-high 10 goals in 2019. “We haven’t played in a while but we got a little taste of it with the UTEP game (on Feb. 29), so I feel like I got my fill for now. I’ll be okay until we get it again but I’m just kind of sad because even though the games don’t really count for anything stats-wise, that could help me. It’s just being out there with the girls and getting used to playing with each other because that is gonna be the team now.”

The BYU scrimmage was scheduled for March 21. About a week before that, Talley and her teammates were told returning to Tucson after spring break wouldn’t be necessary.

The UA had shifted to online classes for the rest of the semester and the Pac-12 banned all organized team activities through the end of March to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Those restrictions were recently extended through May 31, officially putting an end to soccer’s spring season.

“I had a feeling it was gonna be a while, so I wasn’t really caught off guard,” Talley said by phone from her home in Southern California. “There might have been other people who were, but honestly I wasn’t anticipating to come back. It’s basically summer all over again. Just don’t let yourself get too behind.”

Arizona strength and conditioning coach Jim Krumpos has tailored workout programs for the players so they can stay fit and continue their weight training at home. The spring is usually when the players, as midfielder Iliana Hocking once put it, “get yoked.”

“He gave me different things like pull workouts to do, circuits to do, so it’s not the same type of deal every single day,” said Talley, a speedy forward. “And then we have fields by our house, so I go with my sister. My dad will go on a run with me or do a circuit with me.”

Talley’s sister, Jasmine, is a formidable workout partner. She will be a freshman on the Army soccer team next season.

“She has her packet that her team gave her that they told her to work on, so I just do that with her,” Jada said. “It’s like long balls, partner stuff, first-touch stuff. It’s not too much—just touching the ball, making sure your touch doesn’t go away.”

Student-athletes usually have a very structured schedule, but being away from campus is forcing them to be self-disciplined.

Talley is trying to maintain a routine as best she can. She works out in the morning, does schoolwork in the afternoon, and spends time with her family in the evening, watching movies or doing something that’s competitive. Her younger brother Trey plays basketball like their father Errol, who played collegiately at Cal Poly.

“I have a big family so there’s always a lot of people in the house, there’s always something to do,” Jada said.

Well, not always. Talley admitted she sometimes gets bored during the day. Taking advantage of the extra free time, the Care, Health and Society major recently added a course to her class schedule.

“As long as I get my workout in and get that homework in before night, I feel good about what I’m doing,” she said.

And even though Talley is physically apart from her teammates, she stays connected with them via FaceTime and group texts. Friday, the Wildcats virtually met on Zoom for an hour with coaches and other staff members.

“We just talked about what they can do to help us, if there’s anything that we need from them, and how to still be competitive and how we could still keep doing Bear Down Games, like a scavenger hunt or something on Zoom or FaceTime together, just making sure everyone’s still working out, everyone’s still training, doing something active,” Talley said.

College soccer typically kicks off in August, and players usually report for workouts in early July, so it’s very possible the season gets pushed back or, worse, canceled, because of the coronavirus crisis.

Still, Talley, who needs 15 goals to break Arizona’s scoring record, is trying to stay upbeat amid the uncertainty.

“It’s frustrating because there’s no timestamp on when anything will end. We can predict all we want but at the end of the day we’re waiting to hear from the higher-ups,” she said. “So I’m gonna be frustrated if it drags on into the summer, but I don’t like to be negative like that, so I’m positive right now. I mean, if they want to push us back, I’m just gonna look at it as more time to get ready. I just try to look at it as a blessing in disguise.”