For almost two years, Frankie Argott never opened the two big boxes he received as a Christmas present. They sat in his family’s backyard in Mission Hills. Then COVID-19 hit and life changed. The campus at Granada Hills Kennedy closed.
“Once March came, they sent everyone home,” Argott said.
That’s when he finally opened the boxes. It was a Marcy Smith fitness machine and cage system. It became so sought after by families around the country with athletes trying to stay in shape that “sold out” became a familiar response on the company website.
“We set it up,” Argott said.
So began the fight to stay relevant, stay fit and stay prepared for the day Argott and younger brothers Gabriel and Jesse would be allowed to play football again for Granada Hills Kennedy High.
With fitness centers and school weight rooms closed, their backyard became their training area. They built a gazebo to cover the machine. They put up a punching bag. They installed fake grass.
“It’s different,” Frankie said. “We have a why. Why do we play football? I love the brotherhood. I love moving someone from Point A to Point B. Remember the why.”
Frankie is a 5-foot-8, 280-pound All-City senior center, a four-year starter and team captain. Gabriel is a sophomore junior varsity linebacker and Jesse is a 225-pound freshman lineman. They’re part of a family of five boys and two girls. Their parents work for the California Department of Transportation.
Mom bought four new desks for the five children still at home for online learning so each can set up their computer. Even 5-year-old Isabella and 10-year-old Benjamin have desks. Lunchtime produces a traffic jam in front of the refrigerator. Ice cream disappears within the blink of an eye.
On video calls, football coach Troy Cassidy gives the boys workout plans.
“He studies us,” Frankie said. “They’re good workouts. They push you.”
But when Cassidy clicks the computer video button to leave the meeting, the boys don’t stop. They start lifting weights and doing squats, bench presses and incline work. In other words, they’re training when no one is watching, a sign of passion and commitment. And they’re not alone.
“My teammates have done a great job,” Frankie, the team captain, said. “It’s going to be the team most prepared. We haven’t seen anything like this. It seems like the [COVID-19] numbers are going down. It’s a lot of positive energy. We don’t like negative. We’re practicing like we’re going to play a season because that’s what we all believe.”
Los Angeles Unified School District campuses are entering their eighth month of closed sports facilities and not allowing their coaches to work individually with students. It’s an unprecedented situation, and it’s testing the patience and trust of parents and students, because nearby school districts and private schools are opening their facilities so students can work out.
Frankie is counting on the adults to come through and have a plan to make sure the City Section sports season, scheduled to begin on Dec. 14, takes place.
“I just want the decision-makers to know it’s not just me putting in extra work trying to have a season,” he said. “It’s going to be upsetting if we can’t play. We hope they make the right decisions. If we have the slightest chance to play, I hope that can happen. If they did the most to try to get us to play, then you can’t place blame. They should take the decision to the deadline if they have to.”
Meanwhile, the Argott brothers keep lifting weights, keep peddling bike machines, keep doing pushups. They’re not letting a pandemic prevent them from being ready.