Youth: Meet Megh & Cole, Football Players in Bellevue, WA

Interviewer: Nandini Daga; June 7, 2020

Interviewees: Meghnath Dey & Cole Mullenix

The Interlake football team in action (Meghath Dey and Cole Mullenix).

Could you tell us about yourself and your team? How does your team impact the school, the people in the team?

MEGH: My name is Meghnath Dey and I play for the Interlake Saints football team on the offensive line, as an offensive guard.

COLE: I also play for the Interlake Saints High School football team, as a Starting center, and co-captain. I would say the football team provides a social outlet, for the people who come, like the LINK crew, those kids are really into the sporting events. It gives kids a social outlet if they didn’t have one before.

MEGH: I agree, and it helps the school spirit. It helps us get to know each other outside of school, especially since there’s a really strong academic focus at our school.

"It helps us get to know each other outside of school, especially since there’s a really strong academic focus at our school."

How has COVID-19 affected the functioning of your team? What worries you most regarding the effect COVID-19 has/will have on your team?

MEGH: One of the biggest things is that even though it’s the off season, we normally have weight training and conditioning, but that has been stopped—and a lot of the new players need that interaction and weight sessions, and returning players weren’t able to keep up strength and conditioning. Really, new players need team unity which is harder without meeting in-person.

COLE: It’s affecting our ability to know the playbook and know what we’re going to do. We can’t tell the new guys how to run through the playbook and schemes, since we aren’t able to do that in person. You can’t teach a receiver to catch a ball over a Zoom call. Team unity is also taking a big hit, we haven’t been able to meet with each other frequently or at all

The Interlake football team cheering (Meghnath Dey and Cole Mullenix).

What do you believe can be done to help ease problems encountered by your team?

MEGH: Coaches are really influential; coaches need to reiterate social distancing yet recognize that people want to go outside and urge them to be responsible. The football team doesn’t have a huge influence outside of the team but has a big influence on the team itself.

COLE: One thing we’re doing right now is starting five-kid practices starting this Monday, so we’ll be able to do things in person but with social distancing. That’s helping to alleviate the effects, since we are getting the basics we would be getting normally.

What lessons have you learned from the outbreak?

MEGH: One lesson I’ve learned is the best way to learn somebody’s character is how they do when there is nobody around to push them. How they self-motivate, seeing if they can do it themselves. The biggest lesson is being able to motivate myself, creating goals, doing it myself.

COLE: It’s really important to support people in anyways possible. With football we can’t do it physically right now but being there to support your guys and making sure they’re alright, that’s important. We don’t know how everyone’s feeling, so being there and supporting teammates is important.

"With football we can’t do it physically right now but being there to support your guys and making sure they’re alright, that’s important."

Do you know how this differs from other sports teams at school or beyond school?

MEGH: It obviously differs from more individual sports or small group sports, because football relies on a big team and is really physical, and there’s definitely a brotherhood, which is hard to form over a Zoom call. A part of it is also mental—there’s a lot of memorization involved that people can actually work on at this time, compared to something like tennis which is largely just performing on the spot.

COLE: As Megh mentioned, it’s different from sports like say badminton. Football requires a lot of build, you can’t just show up to a game and be ready, which is what’s different for us. Like cheer, they have a different skill set, we need a lot more build up for physical endurance, need a lot more stuff that other sports don’t need.

What training have you guys been doing? How has it been affected?

MEGH: We’ve been running three times a week at Robinswood -- me, Cole, and another friend. Our coach gave a plan, we’ve been following that so we’re ready for the first day of practice. It’s also helpful to see the plays in person even if it's only three people instead of five in the line.

COLE: My dad busted out his old weight set, and I used concrete to make even more weights--I’ve been doing what I can with those. It’s not close to the stuff available at Interlake but I’ve been making do

The Interlake football team during a game (Meghnath Dey and Cole Mullenix).

What are the challenges with the training/not being able to meet in person?

MEGH: One of the issues we had last year was having a good understanding of the plays, and this situation doesn’t help with this at all. But I’m proud of how we are dealing with it and I’m excited for the new season and meeting all the new players in person.

COLE: I wanted to emphasize the problem we will probably have with new guys is them not being physically ready or knowing the plays. I know going into football in ninth grade even after eighth grade football is completely different. The new guys won’t know what it's like, especially at varsity level. It’s going to be a rude awakening for them.

How will things change in the future as we shift into different phases?

MEGH: Initially we were not allowed contact with coaches about football, and then after a bit we started to get into virtual meetings. We got to meet with the new coaching staff online. Then starting this week, we will be allowed. small groups of five players and one coach, as a part of phase 1.5 for King County.

What are you proud of and what are your hopes for the future?

MEGH: Last week, on Friday, our coaches had a talk with the team, about Black Lives Matter protests and other current events--and our coach himself is a black man so he can personally connect with many of the stories we hear about--so I’m really happy he’s using his platform to talk about his experiences and show us the relevance of these issues even though many people dismiss them. He talked about how our team is a family, a brotherhood, how intense practice is and how you have to stick together. He was showing the players a lot of good in this world, and it was really important to me.

"He was showing the players a lot of good in this world, and it was really important to me."

COLE: Similar to what Meghnath said, the way that we’ve been able to bond in these circumstances—especially through the online meeting--was super important. He reinforced that we have to have each other’s backs, no individuality it is a team sport. You go out there and fight for sixty minutes with your brothers. Even with everything that’s going on it's one of the best things happening right now.