By Juan Lozano | June 11, 2020
A question frequently posed to college football coaches is “What do you do during the off-season?”
Games are not played between early January and late August, but that doesn’t mean there’s a college off-season. The college off-season does not exist. The yearly cycle of: (1) winter conditioning, (2) spring football, (3) summer workouts/prospect camps, (4) fall camp, and (5) the season, rotates quickly and then repeats.
It does not allow time for players and coaches to re-charge their batteries.
This year’s schedule has been altered by the closing of college campuses and “social distancing”. Many programs did not have spring practices. Summer workouts have started later (voluntary workouts started on June 1 for some teams). Also, a significant number of football-playing schools will start and end their fall semester a few weeks earlier (at the beginning of August and end around Thanksgiving). This season will be different.
But it does appear that the season will start on time. The NCAA recently passed guidelines on when teams can start preparing for the season. Notwithstanding the guidelines, many head coaches are competitive and controlling, and they’ll try to find ways around the guidelines. They’ll actively work to find a way to get more practice time and stretch the rules.
We have talked to many head and assistant coaches throughout the country. In order to get a game-ready team on the field, many head coaches want to transition from “voluntary workouts” to on-the-field instruction which will lead right into the season, without any sort of break. The belief is that players and coaches already had a vacation.
Coaches already feel mentally fatigued. They have been working from home and many have not had a day off. They’ve had to take care of not only their families, but check up on their players.
In addition, coaches have had to become accustomed to working in a different way. They’ve had to develop routines and develop different work habits, oftentimes strongly influenced by factors such as their children’s school and social calendars. There’s been incessant staff and player meetings on Zoom as well as the consistent focus on recruiting.
If the coaches are feeling worn down, imagine what the players must feel.
Coaches believe, wrongfully, in our view, that if the players are not in the facility, that they’re on a “vacation.” And “vacation” for players is viewed as something bad. But for players, time away from campus was anything but a vacation (besides, what is wrong with a vacation for players?). The past few months have been stressful for many players. In addition to fulfilling academic responsibilities, they’ve had nearly endless Zoom meetings with coaches. These are in addition to the family responsibilities they might have. This was not a time for rest and recovery for the athletes.
Players and coaches normally operate according to a schedule and take comfort in the consistency and structure it provides. Players that were accustomed to having a regimented day, no longer had one. Generally, there is a meeting or lifting session to go to. Not this spring. It takes energy and focus to be motivated and self-disciplined. It also takes energy to work in an unfamiliar way in the hope that what is being done will be helpful whenever things return to normal. They are going to have to re-adjust to having a schedule and being around others.
Aside from the football and scholastic obligations, many players come from challenging environments. Many have had to deal with stressful life situations. Being on a college campus protected players from many of those issues. The players may have gone home and been enveloped in issues that exist when they’re away at school. Upon their return to campus, they may still have the lingering effects of that exposure.
Coaches generally have a tendency to overwork their players. There’s a reason there are NCAA rules on how long players can watch film and practice. Mental fatigue is something head coaches must take into consideration as we advance towards a college football season. With everything the players have been through, do coaches need to have three Zoom meetings with them daily? A second walk-through might not be necessary.
There’s also a physical toll on coming back and working without much of a break.
There is a risk of injury due to attempting to get players back into shape quickly.
However, coaches should remember that college football players are not players in a video game. College football is not a video game where the injury and fatigue settings are set to “OFF”.
Everyone is eager to get started. However, it is going to take time players and coaches to become re-acquainted with each other. Things have changed since the last time they were around each other physically. Major global events that have occurred. The player in July may not be the same person that was part of the program in March. Coaches have to recognize that. Those that do and that get started intelligently and gradually will enjoy success in 2020.
Opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of Headcoachranking.com.