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 the 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?
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.”
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.
Kori Gilliam was recently hired as the head coach of the Cumberland County High School varsity football team, giving him a slightly different perspective heading into this fall.
“As I enter my first year, and trying to turn the program in a different direction, I am patiently waiting until the day that our athletic director says we can start so we can get to work,” he said. “I will be giving out a schedule for workouts that will give kids an opportunity to adapt to my style of coaching along with building relationships with the coaching staff as we prepare for a season in the spring.”
He said he also knows that other sports are scheduled to play before football, acknowledging that his players will experience conditioning for those sports as well.
“Since we are a small school that shares athletes, I will support any kid that is doing something to stay in shape, no matter which sport it is,” he said.
Gilliam will also be making an effort this fall to increase the size of the Dukes’ football roster.
“I will use this break as a period of recruitment — seeing as numbers have been an issue — through attending other practices or contacting current players to recruit friends and family to join us in making this program one to be admired for its work ethic, respect for the game, passionate play and sportsmanship,” he said.
This fall will also lack Hampden-Sydney College football games, which have been moved to the spring, but Tigers Head Coach Marty Favret expects to be far from idle.
“I feel this could be a busy fall for us,” he said Tuesday, Aug. 25. “We’re just not going to be playing games on Saturday. But as far as trying to figure out how to improve our program and get better — and I told the team this today — I don’t think there’s a team in the (Old Dominion Athletic Conference) that’s going to benefit from this more than Hampden-Sydney. This helps us. We have freshmen quarterbacks that we can develop, and we get a chance to get a whole lot better and more time to do that.”
Hampden-Sydney’s freshman football class includes 56 players.
“Instead of three weeks to get them ready for a game, we feel we have six months to get them ready,” Favret said.
He and his staff will be able to work with their players with some limitations.
“From a weightlifting standpoint, we’re going to start in a couple weeks, and then we’re going to phase into some form of practicing — not contact,” he said. “We sort of almost have an unlimited amount of time with them. There’s no restrictions as far as that goes.”