Every coach missed out on some bonding time these past few months.
With football coaches staying close to their players throughout the offseason, that feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood was tough to mimic during the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For Roger McDonald, it was even tougher. Having been named the Dadeville football coach during the shutdown, McDonald has had even less time to meet his players — much less get to know them well. But after just over one week of summer workouts, he feels as close to his new Tiger team as he would any other squad.
“Probably nothing gives you a better opportunity to bond than hard work and having the same goal,” McDonald said. “It’s flowed real well. It’s like I’ve known these kids now forever, so everything is going smooth.”
Although Dadeville, like most other teams, has implemented the “best practices” guidelines handed down by the AHSAA during this phase of summer workouts, they haven’t really changed what the Tigers are doing on the field. McDonald typically doesn’t start much installing or true football work until July anyway, so it’s been business as usual for him.
Averaging about 46 players each day during Dadeville’s two workout sessions, the Tigers are split into two groups with one working in the weight room for about 50 minutes while the other is on the practice field. The two groups then swap before coming together in Tiger Stadium for some post-workout stretching and cooldown.
According to McDonald, the AHSAA’s football committee is supposed to meet again June 22 in hopes of potentially creating new guidelines or sticking to what it’s already got. What McDonald is really hopeful for is to learn what he can do with his players during the extra week of practice the AHSAA is allowing this year, which begins July 27.
“We’re getting to start a week early, so I want to see what we’re able to do that week,” McDonald said. “I have a feeling that’s going to be a big conditioning and teaching week. You don’t want to do so much during the summer teaching-wise that they’re not excited about it. I want them to be excited for actual practice, so I’m anxious to see what we’re able to do with that extra week we’re being given.”
But with a new coach comes a new set of plays and, even more importantly early on, a new set of terminology. Although McDonald hasn’t been football-focused these first few weeks, he said he has been having short meetings with his quarterbacks after each workout to get them learning his terminology.
“I’m teaching my quarterbacks the terminology first because once they learn it, it’s easier to teach it to the whole team,” McDonald said. “I just meet with the quarterbacks for about five or 10 minutes after each workout just to go over a few things. We wouldn’t do any type of group stuff until after the Fourth of July anyway, so in terms of that, we’re not in a big hurry.”
McDonald has also been hard at work studying film and discussing strategy and player positions with his coaching staff, so he’ll be ready to make those assessments when the time comes.
“I’ve been looking at them on film for months now, so I kinda know who’s where,” McDonald said. “The coaches and I have talked about who can play where and there will be some changes as we go, but that would be the case regardless. I don’t have any idea of who’s going to start anywhere; right now, every job is open. But I’ve been running the same stuff offensively and defensively for so long, I can kinda look at how they move and watch them on film and have a pretty good idea of where they’re going to be.”