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File / The Outlook Central Coosa coach Brett Thomas had high hopes for this season despite having to replace Donta Daniel (1) but he knows it's going to be that much tougher given the stay-at-home orders.

It’s no secret Central Coosa’s football team is usually behind the eight ball in terms of offseason workouts and conditioning.

With already small numbers and guys having trouble getting to and from workouts during the summer, the Cougars often find themselves having just a few short days before the season begins to truly prepare.

However, all that was supposed to change this year.

“For the first time, we actually realistically were going to be able to have a spring training,” Coosa coach Brett Thomas said. “We had just started conditioning and I had 15 or 20 players showing up for workouts in the weight room after school every day. We don’t have an athletic period, so that kind of hurt us, but we still had a lot of players who were showing up.”

Thomas had even scheduled a spring jamboree with Verbena, which would’ve been the Cougars’ first against another team in several years.

“I felt really good especially with the younger kids coming in,” Thomas said. “Even though we lost Donta (Daniel), we had some junior varsity players that I feel as though would’ve stepped up. They maybe wouldn’t have filled his shoes but could at least put them on.”

But now all that has changed. With the coronavirus pandemic, school has been out of session for several weeks and coaches haven’t been with their teams during that time. Spring practice was right around the corner with the first date scheduled for Monday. However, all that has been put on hold and coaches are trying to find ways to keep their players active.

For Thomas and the Cougars, that’s been especially tough given the lack of internet access for many of his players.

“Starting May 1, instead of having spring practice, I’m going to create a Zoom link,” Thomas said. “That way we can talk back and forth and players can share what they’ve been doing. If they have any questions, I’m going to demonstrate a few of the exercises. The problem for us is a lot of the boys don’t have any type of access to even video chat or anything. About 55 of my students, which consist probably of about 25 junior varsity players, they don’t have internet at home so it makes it difficult.”

In the meantime, Thomas has sent out at-home workouts that don’t involve any type of weights. He said the workouts are based off what professional wrestlers use.

“They’re used by real wrestlers, not WWE,” Thomas said with a laugh.

Those workouts are based on high intensity work in short periods of time. Each player is asked to do a cycle of chest and shoulder exercises along with sprints to improve agility.

“It increases the players’ mobility and their core strength and natural strength,” Thomas said. “These workouts actually involve muscles they wouldn’t typically use in a weight-room setting.”

The Cougars have also incorporated a running routine that includes long-distance running, sprints and hills. It’s a week-long play with two days of core strength and three days of running then can be repeated the next week.

With players being so spread out amongst the county doing at-home workouts, it’s hard for Thomas to get an idea of how hard and how often players are working. He’s hoping the regular Zoom chats will force players to be more accountable.

However, with Coosa’s regular offseason struggles, it’s become routine for Thomas to stress the importance of players working out on their own. So that’s at least something that’s already in his wheelhouse.

“Even before we got out of school, I would tell the guys, ‘The reason you’re behind has nothing to do with talent; it has to do with physical conditioning,’” Thomas said. “I stress to players over and over again they have to work out. I gave them the example of Reeltown. They were no bigger than us but some of their smaller boys were pushing our linemen all over the field. When you don’t go into the weight room, (your success) has nothing to do with talent or planning.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.