By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches
One of the unprecedented outcomes of the pandemic is that some states decided to postpone football season until the winter or spring sports calendar. For coaches in the states that did, it presented the challenge of designing a new football calendar.
Two of the first states to push back the fall football season until the winter or spring of 2021 were California and Washington.
That left Santa Maria High (Calif.) coach Dan Ellington and many others scrambling to put together a new schedule for the fall season. Ellington’s plan is still fluid, as it’s impossible to predict when the state of California will move into Phase 1. However, he offers these tips to coaches who are facing a new football calendar.
Work backward from your first game.
“Our first game is scheduled for Jan. 6, so that gives the calendar some structure. We don’t know when we’ll be allowed to start practice. That’s up to each district. But if we can work back from Jan. 6, it gives us an idea of when we’ll need to install certain things.”
Read up on the restrictions in each phase of the return to play.
“Our first day of school is Aug. 18, and I’m hoping our district will allow us to start practice. Once we do practice, we’ll be in groups of 10, standing six feet apart. We’ll check temperatures. It’s mostly conditioning in the first phase. Phase 2 will get us in the weight room. Phase 3 will be the official start of practice. Each phase will be at least a few weeks.”
Do what you can on Zoom meetings.
“The kids aren’t always focused on Zoom meetings, so don’t overdo it. We’re planning to run the same schemes, so we can go over those quickly on Zoom. Each position coach takes his position and goes over our scheme on Zoom.”
Provide a workout schedule.
“The biggest challenge for me will be incoming freshmen. They haven’t been in the strength and conditioning program, so we need to get detailed information out to them. I send a workout schedule every couple of weeks.”
Make sure players have the necessary paperwork completed.
“The paperwork needs to get done before they can start practicing. It’s easier to get them to do it when they have a deadline. The administrative stuff is the biggest challenge now. Give them deadlines.”
Send motivational videos.
“I use the Marco phone app and do a little motivational speech to keep them encouraged. It’s good for them to see your face and feed off your energy.”
Stay on top of your players’ academics.
“We still have grading periods with distance learning in the fall, so that’s the time to support your players. It’s easier when there’s the motivation of staying eligible to play each week. But they’ll still be getting graded even though football season starts later, so they need to keep their grades up.”
Don’t Break During School Breaks
One major challenge for teams that will start playing games in January is managing the holiday breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Typically, football season is in full swing over Thanksgiving break, so players stick around. The season is over before Christmas break. Not this year.
“For us, we’re talking about practicing and having our acclimation period during Christmas break,” Ellington said. “I have 94 percent Hispanic kids in school, so a lot of kids travel to Mexico for Christmas. That will be a challenge.”
Ellington will encourage his players to stay at home during Christmas break.
“I’m trying to get kids to stay home and practice,” Ellington said. “Football-wise, it’s a challenge. It’s a tradition for many of our players to visit family in Mexico.”