Q&A with Georgia state champion coach Tim McFarlin, whose team is in quarantine period

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Three-time defending Georgia 4A state champion coach Tim McFarlin was preparing his team to open its season against Forsyth Central last Friday when everything came to a halt.

Blessed Trinity was forced to cancel Friday’s contest and enter a 14-day quarantine period after the Titans reported a positive COVID-19 case within the program.

The Titans could return to the field as early as Sept. 25 – including the 5-day acclimation period required by the GHSA for teams coming out of quarantine. McFarlin joined FNF Coaches to talk about the situation.

What was your reaction to the news of your team’s mandated quarantine?

“I support the decision and the rules set forth by the GHSA and Archdiocese of Atlanta. We’ll follow the rules and hopefully return to practice on Sept. 16.”

What has the return to school been like? 

“Our players are still on campus. Our school has done an outstanding job with spacing. Our student-teacher ratio is already low, so it allows for distancing.”

Were your players where you wanted them in terms of fitness and strength heading into Week 1?

“We came back in June and worked strictly outside. We didn’t do the weight room at all until July. We graduated to the weight room in small groups. We had groups of 20 or less as implemented by the state. We have 120 kids, so six groups worked through about 90 minutes each. It was a long day for coaches, but I thought it was a good way to do it. We got in a lot of work.”

So, it wasn’t much different from a normal summer program in terms of getting the players conditioned?

“From a conditioning standpoint, I felt we were in great shape for June and July. From a weight-lifting standpoint, we missed March, April and May, so we were way behind. We didn’t have a great foundation. That was my concern then, and it’s still a concern.”

Are you worried that will show up in games?

“I’m more concerned about the rate of injury moving ahead. I don’t feel players have that foundation with weight training as they normally would.”

What can you do about that? Would you be in favor of switching to 7-on-7 like some states have done? Or pushing the season to the winter or spring?

“I don’t know what we can do other than really be in tune with what we do in the weight room during the season. Normally, what we do is lift heavy in the spring and summer. We have a maintenance phase in-season. We’ll really have to do a little more during the season than we normally would.”

Is it more difficult to bring freshmen up to speed when there are fewer strength-training opportunities and the season is on hold?

“We brought them in at the same time as everyone else. They came in this summer; they’ve worked independently. They’ve done well because we don’t lift heavy with those guys during their first year. It’s more of an introduction with maximum reps at lighter weights. It’s a learning year, and they’re getting the basics when they come here. So many come from different schools. It’s a group playing together for the first time. I haven’t really noticed a big change with the freshman class. I think what I’ve noticed is it’s mainly the upperclassmen — sophomores, juniors and seniors — falling behind.”

Will you have to dumb down the playbook at all?

“I don’t feel like we’re behind from a schematic standpoint. We’ve done a lot of work on schemes. The only thing that does concern me is the amount of lifting we’ve done up until now. The slow buildup from January is what’s missing — the foundation.”

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk