Every football team across the state of Alabama — and even beyond — is struggling with how to make things work during the coronavirus pandemic. Questions still remain about when coaches will be allowed to work with their players in person and what that will actually look like when they can. It’s been a challenge for everyone.
But for the Dadeville Tigers, that challenge is even more elevated as they are now under the direction of new coach Roger McDonald, who was just approved for hire last week by the Tallapoosa County Board of Education. Because of his late hiring, McDonald hadn’t even met the players who are scheduled to take the field for him in just over three months.
“It’s difficult right now being a new coach and not getting to see your kids,” McDonald said. “I have another friend that just got a head job and said, ‘How are you doing this?’ I said, ‘Same way you are, just trying to get through.’ It’s hard especially just not knowing what’s fixing to happen day to day.”
But McDonald has started to make contact with his players — most over the phone but a few even in person.
McDonald is buying a home in StillWaters but doesn’t close on the house until May 27, but he is still trying to make sure he’s spending time in Dadeville. His goal is to be in town about three days a week, starting to get to know his players and coaching staff as well as get acclimated to the lay of the land.
Throughout this last week, he spent a few days in the area and former coach Richard White gave him a tour of the town. What McDonald discovered is the community has been hungry for a new coach.
“I can say, the communication chain in Dadeville, Alabama, is alive and well,” McDonald said. “Coach White took me out and I was familiarizing myself with everything and next thing I knew, people in the community and players were coming out to the road and coming by to introduce themselves. It was just one right after the other, but that’s great.”
Although McDonald can’t have a traditional meet-and-greet, which is typical of a new coach in a small community because players aren’t allowed on campus, he thought the reaction to him was very well received.
“These people wanted to meet me as much as I wanted to meet them,” McDonald said. “For the players, I’ve been seeing them on film and looking at their measurables, but it was nice for me to be able to eye them in person.”
His biggest message for his players was to just do whatever they could workout-wise during the coronavirus. McDonald has no doubt his players are itching to get onto the field and he’s confident they’re finding creative ways to stay in shape, even at home and without proper equipment in a lot of cases.
“I think at that age, they can’t sit at the house anyway,” McDonald said. “They’re wanting to get out and do stuff. Everybody is about to explode with what’s going to open up and what they can do, but I feel like the kids are working on their own.
“Before I was named the coach, coach (Michael) Taylor and some others had those kids out there on Sundays working on their own and that tells you a lot about the kids. They have that sense of urgency and they’re going to work hard.”
Although it’s still uncertain when players are going to be allowed to reunite with their coaches, McDonald said it’s almost certainly going to come with some changes. Typically, his summer routine includes morning and afternoon workout sessions three days a week, but with the possibility of having to limit the number of players who can work out at a time, that may have to change. Without knowing his players’ schedules and their transportation situations, McDonald said his top priority will be to make sure whatever workouts are done are catered toward the players.
“Once we are given our guidelines, the biggest thing will be being able to fit that in based on the kids’ circumstances,” McDonald said. “We have to determine when we’ll open the weight room and things like that in a way to make it athlete friendly.”