Head football coaches in Coffee County face a different kind of pressure when high school summer workouts can begin this week.
Communication will be more valued than conditioning. Safety protocols will come before special teams. Sanitation before sprints.
“The next two to three months is crucial because that’s going to control whether or not we play football this season,” New Brockton coach Zack Holmes said Friday. “It’s very important that we do a great job so we get to play football.”
After three months without players, voluntary workouts can start on Monday. Enterprise and Elba will kick it off then. Kinston will have a parent meeting Monday and the Bulldogs will get started Tuesday. New Brockton, which has parent meetings this week, and Zion Chapel will start next week as capital improvements are being made to their stadiums.
Enterprise High head coach Rick Darlington, who was taking his son Jackson to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, was unavailable for this story. The Wildcats have gone out of their way to meet safety protocols for these non-mandatory workouts, EHS Athletics Director Trent Trawick said.
The social distancing mandates will be effect. Athletes will have to bring their own water to each session. Any equipment that is used will be sanitized after each workout.
Elba head coach Marc Sieving, who was hired earlier this year but missed spring football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, couldn’t hide his excitement about getting his Tigers back together.
“We’ve been doing things like sending home workouts. We’ve been having Zoom meetings. But it’s all going to start up Monday,” Sieving said. “Hopefully we’ll have them all in there Monday and we’ll get going. I’ll tell you, man, I’m so excited. I can’t wait.”
He knows that there is a lot to do, but he added there is time to get it done.
“We’re going to use this time to get them in shape,” Sieving said. “But then, with us not being able to have a spring, we haven’t installed anything. We’re looking at getting our offense and defense in.
“I think there’s plenty of time to do that. I don’t think we’re rushed or anything. We want to be easy with them at the start and get them all in shape and then build up to that point.”
Sieving plans to have one group in the weight room and one group outside and those groups will flip locations.
“After we’ll end up on the field for an hour and a 15 minutes working on some things,” Sieving said. “We want to be safe. We’ll take a lot of precautions to make sure that we are. I think that’s got to be the most important thing so we can play football in the fall.”
Kinston coach Rudy Free said everything about this spring has been different.
“You don’t get to see the kids, you know a little bit about what they’re doing, but not for sure,” the coach said, adding the extra time has allowed him time to do some projects around the house. “You’re not around the school, not around the kids.”
Communication will be a key, he said, and not just from coach to player.
“We’re going Tuesday, hopefully,” Free said. “We’ll communicate with parents over the weekend and we’ll plan a parent meeting for Monday afternoon and just try to lay the guidelines out and make sure everybody’s on the same page. Make sure they’re comfortable with it.”
Kinston will work in two groups, one at 6-8 a.m. and another from 7:15-9:15 a.m.
“The main thing is trying to keep the kids in the same groups, not intermingling,” Free said, adding sanitation and hand washing will be emphasized. “Sanitize between groups coming in and screening them when they get there. Hopefully, it’ll take us a little time just to get used to the new routine.”
The Bulldogs likely will start with body weight exercises and go from there. Free said there is some work being done on the weight room.
“We may not even have weights those first couple weeks anyway,” the coach said. “That’s not a big problem right now.”
Kinston’s coach said Tuesday will be exciting for everybody.
“It’ll be good to get the coaches back in and around the kids and us to be around each other and get back to work,” Free said. “I’m not going to say get back to normal — because it’s not going to be that — but get back to seeing each other and being able to continue to build on what we’ve done before.
“I talked to some of the older kids. Sometimes you worry they’ve been out for this long you worry they may not be excited to come back. The ones I talked to have been excited about it. That’s a good sign.”
Players and coaches will have to wait just a bit longer at Zion Chapel and New Brockton.
“Obviously, it gives us something to look forward to. Basically, for three months as coaches we’ve kind of been in withdrawals,” Zion Chapel coach Randy Bryant said. “Really looking forward to seeing the kids. That’s the most important thing right now, being able to get around them and try to continue those relationships you had going.”
The Rebels are having LED lights installed at their stadium.
“The way everything was hooked up was run through the field house,” Bryant said, adding this is always a busy time of the year, but especially after a three-month layoff. “So we’re going ot be a without power for a couple weeks, but it plays into our plan. Basically, we’re going to start workouts the week of June 8.
“That’s to allow us, hopefully, for them to make some progress on the lights and to give us some extra time to prepare. We’re gathering masks for all the athletes, hand sanitizer, some portable sinks, some thermometers. We’re taking all the precautions to keep them safe.”
Construction on New Brockton’s stadium — the Gamecocks’ new home side will be where the visitors used to sit — has Holmes smiling.
“It’s going to be a game-changer,” he said.
But that pales next to the urgency he feels about seeing his players return on June 8.
“I’ve been telling them we’ll get back together, that it will happen,” Holmes said. “So I’m excited that day is going to happen, for sure. I’m ready. I miss them.
“I told my coaches, ‘If you don’t miss our players you’re probably in the wrong business. I’ve been talking to them on the phone and all that stuff. I’m ready to see a group of them together, interacting.”