New A-K Valley coaches adapt to taking over programs during coronavirus pandemic

Sunday, April 26, 2020 | 12:58 PM

For high school football coaches, spring and summer are crucial to the development of their programs.

It allows them to bring the team together in the weight room to get stronger, and it gives them time to install their schemes while building relationships with the players. That time is even more crucial for coaches who are new to their respective programs.

Over the past two months, the coronavirus pandemic has robbed two new coaches of the opportunity to work with their players in person. But they seem to be taking the challenges in stride.

Randy Walters was hired at Leechburg during a virtual school board meeting after the pandemic had forced schools to close in March. The long-time coach has made stops at Valley, McGuffey, Bentworth, Leechburg and, most recently, served two seasons as an assistant at Burrell.

“It’s tough. It’s different. I haven’t met the kids yet, and it sure would be nice to meet the kids,” Walters said. “But that’s just the way it is. I’m just doing whatever I can. I got the kids on Hudl. My new quarterback, Dylan Cook, has been a real trooper by staying in touch with me and answering any questions I have. I’m just trying to get as many things lined up as I can.”

Walters put his playbook on Hudl, so his players can examine it and ask questions. He also has placed training tape and weight workouts on there, but there is only so much he can do at this stage.

While Walters began his tenure in the middle of the pandemic, new Riverview coach Trevor George had a little time to get acquainted with his players before activities shut down. After getting hired in February, George met his kids, got them in the weight room and put a few things into place.

“This is all unconventional, but I was kind of blessed to at least be with the kids for about three or four weeks,” George said. “We were just getting started with the whole culture building, setting the expectations in the weight room, and I was just starting to get to know the kids. I think that’s the most important thing.”

During those weeks, George also hired most of his coaching staff. Two of his assistants teach cyber school, so the coaching staff was able to adjust quickly to the technology it would need to stay in touch.

They hold Zoom calls once or twice a week. The staff is in constant communication, and the coaches have been able to keep the players accountable by posting workout videos on their Google drive and their “Band” app, which George described as a Facebook for sports teams.

“You can make it as close to person-to-person as you want with all of the technology that’s available,” George said. “We have familiarity with the resources and communicating via those resources, so we’ve kind of been accustomed to that in our jobs. So it’s kind of been a breeze for us, but I can see how difficult it would be for coaches who haven’t used that technology before. I definitely think it’s helped us.”

Along with the workout drills, the Raiders also are planning on staging a Madden tournament in place of an intrasquad 7-on-7 scrimmage they were going to have this summer.

“We were going to do a big spring 7-on-7 game with a big-man challenge and a picnic and stuff. It was going to be a big ordeal, and the kids were looking forward to it,” George said. “But it’s looking like we can’t do it, so we were talking in a staff meeting and we were saying we want to keep the competition going no matter what because we want the kids competing on and off the field.”

Most significantly, they are missing crucial time in the weight room. Lifting together not only allows the players an opportunity to get stronger, it also allows the coaches to learn about them on a deeper level.

“That would be the biggest thing, having the opportunity to build a relationship with the kids through the weight room,” Walters said. “Just being with them every day and recruiting kids from within the school as well. I’ve had a few kids even reach out and say they had other guys who were interested in playing, too.”

Football coaches are holding out hope they will have a season in 2020. Until the are told otherwise, they will continue to prepare their players the best they can.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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