Professional athletes are creatures of routine. Their days are planned down to the minute: train at this time, eat these meals, recover during this period, play a game, repeat next week. The predictable nature is designed to help them focus and excel on the field.
During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, nothing was predictable. Players in Major League Soccer couldn't train at their facilities, and clubs scrambled to get equipment into homes and develop programs. Now, weeks later, things are normalizing. Well, slightly.
The club sends him and his teammates a structured training program Monday through Friday, both individual work and twice-weekly team Zoom workouts including yoga and kickboxing. It's a way to stay in shape while seeing teammates and getting in a bit of banter. Then it's down to work.
"To be honest, we all get muted quite early," Mackay-Steven said. "There's a little bit of chatter for the first five minutes, but then it quickly gets muted by the coach or the instructor so the class can resume in good fashion." (The winger has upped his Zoom game, transitioning from using his phone to his laptop. "I'm able to see what's going on," he said. You live, you learn.)
In Colorado, Clint Irwin and his Colorado Rapids teammates get six workouts -- three running-focused ones and three weight-lifting ones -- sent through an app each week. He's been banging out the deadlifts. "We're still cranking away at them," he said. "There's really not much else to do, so there's really no reason not to do them at this point."
Irwin and his wife have also been hiking, taking a day trip to Cheesman Canyon in an effort to break the monotony (and, of course, let their dog play in a river).
The hardest part is the unknown timing of it all, the indeterminate wait to resume play. Irwin, part of the MLS Players Association executive board, thinks the mentality of the players is staying strong.
"I think it's as good as it could be, not just in our team, but other guys I've talked to around the league. Everyone is noting how challenging it is," he said. "The enthusiasm certainly could be high some weeks and lower other weeks, but it's just a matter of how you can manage that and channel it into the right areas.
"It's difficult not knowing what the timeline is. Trying to manage what your ramp-up period is going to be. Do you start heavy into video and analysis and all these things? If you do that too early, you risk getting burnt out and losing the enthusiasm because you don't know when the actual start date will be."
Meanwhile, in addition to workouts, Cristian Roldan and his Seattle teammates have been playing "Get to Know Your Sounders" via video calls. Recently, assistant coach Djimi Traore told the boys about battling Kaka in the Champions League final in 2005, and how he was always picked last in small-sided games when he first joined Liverpool. With Seattle starting to open up May 5, Roldan is hopeful that training will resume in some capacity in the near future.
"I have more motivation now because it seems like things are getting better," he said. "It seems like there's a future. It seems like there are games that could be played this year. A lot of us players are finding more motivation to continue to work hard and be fit for the season because the circumstances are getting better. We see ourselves going into training sessions, whether it's individually or in smaller groups rather soon."
At the very least, he's looking forward to playing golf again, an opportunity to get out of the house and swing the clubs. Or club, rather. Roldan says he'll use a hybrid from almost anywhere. "Near or far," he laughs. "Alex, my brother, gets mad at me because I'll use a hybrid [driver] just because I'm feeling good. Sometimes when people don't play for a while, they get better. I hope that's the case." Until then, he plans to keep streaming Fortnite on his Twitch channel, a way to keep himself entertained and interact with fans. Roldan joined Walker Zimmerman's Fortnite Fitness Friday.
"The better we do, the more fitness the fans have to do," Roldan said. "The worse we do, we have to work out and be good influences on camera. I think I did about 80 on top of the workout that we had with our team. The next day I was feeling so sore."
Mackay-Steven is still working on his guitar skills, watching a bit of Netflix and plowing through the pile of books he ordered in March. He focused on books that he has always been meaning to read from authors including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. No digital stuff for him.
"And it needs to be a paperback," he said. "I can't do a hardback. I need to be able to throw it about and fold it. I can't read on anything else. A proper book."
Mostly, though, everyone is looking forward to a time when they can return to the gym and the field, when social distancing is over. Soccer players are just like us: They miss hanging out with their friends.
"You're definitely going to have a better appreciation of being able to work out with people, have them around pushing you and giving you instruction. Right now, you're just on your own," Irwin said. "Working out individually for this long is tough mentally."