What excited most about Central Coosa football coach Brett Thomas about this year was the Cougars’ offseason plan.
Because Coosa County is so large geographically with only one school and many high school-aged kids must have jobs or don’t have reliable transportation, it’s been increasingly difficult for Thomas to get his football players out for summer workouts. That’s resulted in incredibly low numbers when the season begins, an extremely late start and very difficult outcomes.
But this year, Thomas had formulated a plan to help reignite the passion for the Cougar football program. He planned to host summer workouts throughout the county, finding a place to do conditioning and drills in Kellyton, Goodwater and Rockford as well as at the school.
It took a lot of planning and still needed final approval, but all that has gone out the window for Thomas and the Cougars after the coronavirus pandemic. Other aspects have taken priority and until last week, Thomas wasn’t even sure when he’d be allowed to host workouts — if at all.
However, although the AHSAA has approved voluntary summer workouts to begin Monday, Thomas has a whole new set of concerns after the April 19 straight-line wind storms tore through Coosa County.
The Cougars are now without a field house.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for us because our field house was completely destroyed,” Thomas said. “The roof is actually falling in; it’s not just an easy tarp fix. It’s basically condemned. When you look on the dressing room side, all that ceiling is on the floor.”
And it’s not getting any better as many damages were done to the school buildings, which must take priority, and insurance adjustors are still working their processes.
“The room is continuously falling in more and more,” Thomas said. “Even if we could get in to one side, we just wouldn’t. We have cooling units on top of the building, so you don’t want to have children in there at all.”
Thomas said he recently saw adjustors and others doing estimates of what work needs to be done on the building, but it’s so much more than that. Luckily, Coosa’s helmets had been sent off for their annual refurbishing and Thomas had a lucky hunch to take home the team jerseys the Friday before the storm to do the wash.
“By the grace of God, I had the uniforms up in my classroom,” Thomas said. “But our shoulder pads, lockers and all that stuff is damaged.”
Plus, although much of the equipment might be salvageable, Thomas hasn’t even been able to get into the building to assess the nature of that damage. This all comes after Thomas, who is also the athletic director, helped oversee the treatment of the bat problem in the Joe Belyeu Gymnasium.
“We just got that under control,” Thomas said. “I went down to check on that (just last week) and it’s starting to come together so it should be ready for volleyball and basketball to get in their workouts this summer.”
As for the return to sports, Thomas said he was going to be meeting with superintendent Andi Wilson to put together a plan of how the school system will proceed with athletics. Thomas said the guidelines handed down by the AHSAA shouldn’t be too difficult to follow, especially because the Cougars have essentially been forced outdoors, but there will be careful planning done.
The good news is because Thomas knew most of his players didn’t have weight equipment readily available at home, the workout plan he set up for the guys during the pandemic didn’t require what was lost in the weight room. Therefore, he’s hopeful his Cougars will already be prepared for what’s coming.
“We’re going to continue those workouts but now we’ll be able to monitor if they’re actually doing it or not,” Thomas said. “But it’s essentially the Olympic wrestling team weight regime and it’s a total body workout. It works muscles they wouldn’t have worked in the weight room.”
Thomas felt really encouraged by the number of people who were showing up for workouts prior to the pandemic, so he’s hopeful that’ll continue this summer even if it does come with some extra precautions.
“I really, really felt good about this coming year because we had a lot of high school players that were showing up in the spring that previously we didn’t have,” Thomas said. “But as far as the actual football, the workouts are still going to be the workouts. We’ll still go through individual drills and the field workouts won’t change. The strength is what it is, and we are just going to have to continue with what we’ve got.”