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Submitted / The Outlook Southern Prep's football team has the feeling of winning the National High School Association's 8-Man Football Division II National Championship fresh in its mind and is using that as motivation to stay in shape during the coronavirus pandemic.

Because it’s a private school with players from all over the country — and even the world — Southern Prep’s football team is used to having to get creative.

The Fighting Rangers don’t get nearly as much time together as the typical public school. They don’t have summer workouts, except with the few players who participate in summer camps or summer school, and it’s common for them to spread out during the offseason.

But Southern Prep coach Roland Bell did put an extra emphasis on an offseason workout plan, especially after the team’s success last season, and he didn’t want that to stop just because players aren’t on campus.

“Typically I have most of the guys in a weight training class and we’d be working out on a daily basis getting ready for spring training, which was supposed to kick off April 20,” Bell said. “Now with everybody at home and spread out all over the country, everybody has to send me three videos a week of them working out.”

But those videos aren’t just for football; the players are getting graded on if they submit the videos or not and Bell said he’ll have to use those videos more than anything else to evaluate players before they report back in August.

He’s been fairly impressed with how creative his players have gotten in terms of their workouts, saying a lot are even getting their family members involved.

“Some of them are doing pushups with their little brothers or sisters on their backs,” Bell said. “I had one that was curling his nephew. A lot of them don’t have weights so I told them to be creative. I gave them some ideas and they’re just doing anything they can do. One is doing his deadlifts or squats while holding 5-gallon paint cans. They’re just doing weird things like that.”

Although it’s tough to keep players motivated during such a difficult time, a big factor for the Rangers has been their success last year. Bell has been hard at work building up a regular-season schedule and has also made sure to let players and parents know Southern Prep plans to play in the NHSA National Championship Tournament again this season.

“One thing I have noticed is when I respond to a kid or a parent who has sent me videos, I’ll put in a note about, ‘That’s awesome,’” Bell said, “then I’ll also try to tell them, ‘Hey, we’re up to nine regular-season games plus the national tournament at the end of the season. That’s one thing is we had nothing to look forward to before, but now a lot of the parents and boys are saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait.”

Those boys remember playing in that tournament well and have reached out to Bell several times about how they’ll get their championship rings once they are shipped to campus. He said that feeling is something they’re going to want to have again, and that keeps them on the right path.

Bell also talks to his players and their parents regularly, keeping those lines of communication open. He plans to start a weekly Zoom meeting next week with two fellow teachers that’ll be open to all Southern Prep students; it’ll include a motivational speech from one of the three teachers as well as an open discussion with the boys.

“We just want to talk through this and work through this together,” Bell said. “I don’t think other schools really have boys getting together either so I actually think right now, we’re just in the same boat as everybody else. We are just maybe more used to it.”

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