What are football coaches up to?
It is an unusual late summer and it will be an unusual fall for area football coaches. They have no scrimmages or football games to prepare for or to lead their teams through.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led Virginia High School League and area private schools to postpone their football seasons until spring 2021.
So what will the football coaches be up to with the latter half of their unusual 2020?
Ray Conner, the new varsity football head coach at Randolph-Henry High School, will be making the most of this additional offseason time by acquainting himself further with the Statesmen program. He is also in a holding pattern in terms of most of his on-field and in-gym coaching opportunities until student-athletes return from virtual learning to in-person classes.
“Once the kids get back to school, we hope to get them into the weight room for workouts, and we will be doing early conditioning,” he said. “With that being said, the extra time is great for learning a new system. I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Larry White has been preparing for his second season as head coach of the Prince Edward County High School varsity football team, and his preparation will continue this fall.
“Basically what I’m doing when I’m not working is I’m at home watching film from last year, trying to improve from last year,” he said.
He acknowledged he and his staff do not know what the spring schedule is going to be, but he still wants to have an idea of what the Eagles are going to be facing.
Prince Edward students are learning from home for the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year, but White said he is contacting his student-athletes, seeing how the virtual learning process is going and also advising them to continue working out in their spare time until team workouts are allowed again.
“Hopefully, when they get back in school, hopefully (administrators) allow us to work out for two days — I’ll take that,” White said.
He stated that some of his players text him and ask him about working out.
“They want to get in there,” he said. “They want to get in there and work out, and I want to see them. They’re going to be a special group.”
When asked what the last time was that he had experienced a fall free from coaching football in-season, White said he could not remember.
“To be honest, this is really the first time,” he said. “Before I got the job at the high school, (I) was always (coaching) middle school, and then it was youth league.”
Central High School Varsity Football Head Coach Will Thomas is entering a fall without football for the first time since his first son was born, which was 2004. Thomas has been coaching since he was 19 and has taken only a couple years off since then.
“So that’s been 25 years of usually getting something going in August, sometimes as a head coach, sometimes as an assistant,” he said. “So, (this year is) definitely different — it’s really not that fun. Plus we miss seeing the kids too. We enjoy doing this stuff, and we haven’t seen them since March.”
Central students are starting the year with remote learning.
“It’s really hard for us to do conditioning because our kids aren’t in the building,” Thomas said. “I know we can’t open the weight room because (of) all the COVID restrictions and things like that.”
He said he and his staff have most of their players’ phone numbers, though, and they have started reaching out to the student-athletes, letting them know they are available to help them if they have any issues with the virtual learning process.
“Especially our rising seniors, because we want to make sure they stay on track for graduation,” Thomas said. “We want to make sure the first semester is done correctly, and it’s going to be tough. It’s different for everybody.”
He admitted there was a selfish motivation included in there too, though likely both student-athletes and coaches share it.
“We’ve got to keep our kids eligible for a semester in order so they can be eligible to play second semester,” he said.
For now, he noted his focus is mostly on helping his players be successful academically until that effort can be joined with working out and conditioning.
At Fuqua School, in-person classes are being held. But Ben Manis, head coach of Fuqua’s varsity football team, said new Head of School Paul “Chance” Reynolds
has shut down all after-school activities until after Labor Day.
Manis said his team had been doing team workouts prior to this.
“Right now, we’re kind of in a holding pattern,” he said. “Our kids aren’t allowed to stay after school or on campus after school.”
When after-school activities resume, however, he expects team activities to also resume, though they will not involve full-fledged practices.
“We’ll probably do more like our summer workouts,” he said.