Questions on High School Football Season, Suggestions for Coaches

The last week has done nothing to change my mind that we LIKELY WON’T have a high school football season. In speaking with several power program football coaches, none of whom wanted to be quoted, the belief of a season is grim. It should be. NO ONE knows what the virus is going to do. My inbox has been filled  with parents asking questions or comments  that are related in some way, shape or form, to their own son’s ability to play in hopes of getting a college scholarship. Safety be damned. There’s been Governors in other states who have spoken on the topic of high school sports in the Fall. Our hasn’t. He’s done a really good job or reminding me of Netflix(check out Greyhound with Tom Hanks, it was terrific)…

Friday afternoon the AIA put out a statement on the Fall sports calendar. Here’s the only line you need to know from what they released: 

“Please note that all subjects below are based off the timeline that schools will reopen to students on Aug. 17 at this time. Any and all plans can change if the timeline shifts.”

A few of the head coaches I spoke with on those first games scheduled for Friday, September 11th, said “50-50 at best” that those contests would even be played. Nice to know that head coaches aren’t pretending to be specialists who can predict what an airborne virus is going to do next.

For the most part the parents of participants aren’t taking into account the other players, head coaches, assistant coaches, bus drivers, referees, and trainers safety during the discussion of high school football returning. In the notes I receive is “games need to be played or MY kid isn’t going to get tape or get noticed for a scholarship”.  I’ll actually stop rolling my eyes on the “getting noticed, getting film” topic and address it. 

The Power Five college assistant coaches that I speak to on a regular basis are in the same boat as you. They don’t know if they will even have a season. Every single one of them realize that a players safety against a virus is more far more important RIGHT NOW  than trying to shoehorn a way to get tape. On the backside of this, there’s going to be more high school combines and college camps than you can shake a stick at. I’m sure the club movement (Daddy Ball) is licking their chops too…

Here’s what I’m interested to see in the next couple of weeks.

If the virus continues to rage here in Arizona, when will we start to see some high school players leave Arizona for other states in order to get in a full season? If you recall, at the beginning of June, I wrote that players from California were contacting Arizona high schools looking for a season. Friends in Valley real estate first tipped me off to this trend. Now, I’m getting parents asking about the merits of moving to other states. I had a conversation with a out-of-state power program head coach who listed the positions on the field they need to fill. 

I’m interested to see what will happen to those players who transferred intro Arizona high school programs, only to see our state on fire with the virus and shorten the season. Will they stick around? 

What about the Open Division playoff if there’s a shortened season? I’m more concerned about playoff possibilities for EVERY school. I know that Chandler, Centennial, Hamilton, Saguaro  and four others will find a way to be grouped. The Open opportunity last year produced magical moments on the campus’s of Liberty and Mesquite that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. Find a way to keep the Open. Reminder from the AIA..

“Please note that all subjects below are based off the timeline that schools will reopen to students on Aug. 17 at this time. Any and all plans can change if the timeline shifts.” 

One last thought to the coaches: Hang in!

Like your parents and players, you’ve never been in this position before. Some of you are stressed out because you’re used to being in control. You aren’t right now. But I have to question why some of you are feeling it necessary to be on the field, at a park, or in the weight room this coming week even as the Governor has asked everyone to stay at home? Is your season going to get lost if you don’t gather your team between now and July 20th? A weeks worth of Zoom meetings is going to do damage? Really? 

Here’s a quick, easy curriculum for the coming week. 

ZOOM on Monday-show your team some clips of the following players. (Walter Payton, Rocky Bleier, Alex Smith, Bo Jackson) and explain to them how each player either overcame, or how short life can be on and off the field. Have them write 200 words on what they learned on one of  the players. They will take this teaching with them much further in life

ZOOM on Tuesday-Life skills. How to order Uber, how to properly tip at restaurant, etiquette when you get around a big booster in college, how to tie a tie (I do this one with at-risk kids and then give them the tie)

ZOOM on Wednesday- Have them watch “Broke” 

Have them write 200 words on how the movie impacted them. 

ZOOM on Thursday- Have a discussion about money. How to budget, how to save. Your players see the Patrick Mahomes’ contract from last week (450-million) and that’s all they see and hear.  Do you have an assistant on staff who works off-campus in the financial world who could Zoom in and do some basic money and athletics talk? 

ZOOM on Friday- Have alumni from your school Zoom in to talk with the kids about their experience at the high school or as the head coach, interview someone at your school that the kids see everyday, but they don’t know that person’s story. Sends a good message to the kids to get to know everyone on campus and makes that person feel really good that you care about them in a very stressful period of time. 

I’ve got dozens of suggestions, I’ve done this sort of thing through the years to help out players and parents no matter the size of the program or the player. Not telling you how to do your business, just one man’s opinion…