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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Loyal returned to small group practices this week after nearly two months of only training together virtually. Aside from exercising, players on the first-year professional soccer club have been using the sessions to foster team chemistry.

Virtual team practices from home had been the new normal for the Loyal. Twice a week, the team gets together on Zoom where they go through exercises with head athletic trainer Brittany Peterson.

“If they’re not living with each other then they don’t see each other,” Peterson said, “and so it’s really fun to get everyone together on the screen and to stay engaged and keep that culture of the team that we had really going for us at the beginning of the season and to try to keep that alive.”

Sometimes that includes themed workouts.

“It helps to build team chemistry because we’re a first-year team so chemistry was something that we were still building during all the time this happened,” Loyal defender Sal Zizzo said.

Athletes also have been getting one-on-one virtual treatment, which Peterson said helps players rehab or otherwise go over exercises “depending on if they’re feeling achy or just need to get out some soreness.”

“Everybody is interacting and you kind of get pushed in that sense — it’s a sense of motivation,” Zizzo said. “She’s (Peterson) constantly saying stuff over the Zoom workout as well like, ‘Come on guys, one more set,’ and just little things like that where it motivates you.”

It’s not just the professionals getting virtual training. In a series of YouTube videos, Peterson offers tips for athletes of all ages looking to stay active.

“For a lot of us, it’s our outlet and so when we get that taken away from us that can take just a mental toll on us,” she said. “What do I have to channel my energy into or have as a release? Athlete or not, you have to find something that’s going to help.”

Using household items, Peterson demonstrates various exercises that anyone at home can try. She says she purposely created workouts focusing on injury prevention.

“We can activate the glutes in the posterior chain like our hamstrings and the back of our legs,” she said. “We can activate our core, our ab muscles and the back of our shoulders which is all going to help prevent injury because when we go back to training and just hit full force, that’s when injuries can really increase.”

At this point, the most important thing is ensuring athletes and others feel supported, she said.

“Whether it’s giving them workouts or just checking in, I think it’s really really important because of the role that we play with them on just making sure like, ‘Hey, we’re here even now and when we come back we’re still here for you,'” Peterson said.