CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Football, declared a high-risk sport by the higher ups, has been moved to March, presumably at a time when COVID-19 is less of a threat to coaches and players.
The move, made by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, puts football in the “Fall II” season, along with volleyball and girls swimming. From the weather to loss of practice time, the spring start presents the John Jay High School coaching staff with many challenges, but also offers some advantages. Jimmy Clark, head coach of the Wolves, sat down with The Katonah-Lewisboro Times to talk about the upcoming season.
John Jay has put together a 28-3 record the last three seasons under Clark, winning the Section 1 Class A title in 2018.
With the COVID-19 virus looming, how does the preparation for a March 2021 football season differ from fall seasons in the past?
We’re looking at something we’ve never seen before. Everything right now is just so fluid. We’re just kind of rolling with new rules every day, so we’re just concerned with our athletes’ mental and social-emotional health, so we’re doing a lot of Zoom meetings and making sure that everyone’s OK. And within that time, we’re trying to get some football done. So, we’ll do some individual meetings with each position and some team meetings.
Then, the workouts and football skill-wise, we can’t go to camps. We’re not allowed to. There are just so many things that are completely different. So, a lot of the workouts, the guys are doing on their own. [Coaches have] been sending out workouts. Some go to trainers in a safe environment. So, it’s been really difficult and completely different, but we’re just really looking forward to getting back and seeing the boys again. That’s our focus. We’re adapting. It’s a new day and we’re in a new time and we just have to get better at it.
Are there any advantages to postponing the season?
I thought it was a great advantage for us having the March season instead of the fall season. The No. 1 reason is things are still changing every day, and there are different restrictions every day. For me, I think it’s better to have Fall I go, and we can see what they do. They’re really the catalysts right now, and they’re out there figuring it out themselves. So, it’s a great opportunity for us to watch what they do and learn from them, learn how they’re social distancing, what they’re doing with their facemasks…and really just how it all comes together. So, all of that is still really unknown to us, and there is still a lot of work to be done, so I think we have a much better chance at having a complete season in March and also having all the guidelines down. So, I thought March is great.
Having a season in March, there’s a possibility of snow and a lot more rain. So, how will the weather conditions affect the type of play and how can you prepare for this?
Weather is absolutely going to be a big factor and the short time of practice, as well. Because it doesn’t look like we’re having any camps, so in past seasons, we’re kind of hitting the ground running when the season begins, because we’ve already had camps, we’ve already had practices, we’ve already had 7-on-7 [drills], linemen challenges—all these things that we’ve done beforehand. This year is going to be completely different. It looks like the very first day of practice [might be] the first time we’ve been together. So, the weather is going to play an even a bigger factor. Because, let’s be for real, March 1 is very cold, especially the time that we get out there—whether we went early in the morning or after school, it gets chillier. So, on the nice days when it’s 50 degrees, that’s still cold. That means, toward the evening, it’s in the 30s, and at some point, it becomes counterproductive to be out there. So, again, these are things that I’m still trying to put together and figure out, but ideally, I think we need gym space, I think we need to practice in indoor faculties, and just practice the most efficiently that we can.
You talked about Zoom earlier. How does the ability to use Zoom for virtual team meetings been an advantage?
Zoom has been incredible. If there is any good to come from this, it would be the use of technology for us as coaches and players, and even as a society. But Zoom is going to be great. It absolutely is going to make practice more efficient. What we do on varsity is we film everything. So, after practice, we go in and we watch some of it or we send clips to the kids and they can see the things that we need to work or went well. I’m thinking now, instead of having all the meetings we had before practice or even after practice, or even Sunday practices, why would I need to bring you in when…we can Zoom and we can spend another 10 minutes together, instead of keeping the players at schools for 45 minutes? Now, we can go have a Zoom and it can be a short 10-minute meeting. I just think it’s been great for us. And all the individual meetings [with different positions]…we can all meet at the same time, and it’s just much more proficient, for sure.
Talking about the coaching staff, what is the coaching staff doing to maintain the momentum for the team as they wait for the 2021 season?
That’s a good question, because we’re as eager as you are to get out on the field, and there is only so much Xs and Os we can do. But there has been a lot of it. So, the other fortunate thing about this whole thing and Zoom is, I’ve done more coaches clinics than I’ve ever done in my life, because a lot of these college coaches, they have free time, and they get on Zoom no problem. So, I’ll get on a Zoom with coaches from all around the country and talk football. So, we’ve all been doing that throughout this whole time. So, as far as prepping and getting ready and football knowledge, it’s better than ever, for sure, but we’re anxious to get on the field.
How do you plan to get John Jay back to the dominant level they have been at for the last three years?
Well, every year, each team needs to create its own attitude. You know that. We’ve talked about that. You don’t inherit it. You create it. So, what are we going to do to create it? We’re going to work really hard, as we always do. Everything we do is going to be fast, and we’re just not going to waste time. And in this situation, we can’t waste any time, because time is so limited. We’ve just got to be really efficient with everything that we do. Just know that this is a process, and we need to get there. So, it’s not about getting to the sectional championship or winning the league or any of those things. It’s about getting better today. And how are we going to get better today, how are we getting better on this rep. Then the process takes care of itself.