In anticipation of the start of school on Monday, Lutcher football coach Dwain Jenkins had his Bulldogs working a practice schedule a week ago to mimic the one now used with school in session.
The Bulldogs had two practice sessions on Monday, one at 3:30 p.m. and the other at 5 p.m.
“We kept everything with a 3:30 start instead of right after school because it gives us time to clear campus and get the guys who were off campus, on campus,” Jenkins explained.
Lutcher is using a hybrid school schedule. The “A Group” was on campus Monday and will return on Wednesday. The “B Group” is on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With no students on campus on Fridays, both groups end up dealing with virtual learning three days a week as the school continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The schedule limits the number of days the students are on campus. For athletes, some will head to the practice field after being in school all day, while others will arrive after in-home learning.
It’s an adjustment not just for the athletes.
“The first day of school is a whole other thing,” said Jenkins. “We are dealing with not having common areas in the school and having to report to classrooms and having to have all of your meals delivered to your classrooms and starting to try to set up for the at-home learning, plus the at-school learning. It’s just a lot of change as far as educational procedures and processes that we all are still trying to figure out.”
Jenkins and his staff figured out to go with two different practice sessions each day, unlike a lot of other schools that have the players report all at one time but divided either by placing one unit on one side of the 50-yard line on the football field and the other on the opposite side to promote social distancing.
“I think what it does is it gives us an opportunity to really coach every kid and not designate coaches to only get to see half their kids. We feel it’s important because our positional coaches get to see all their guys at least three times during the week,” said Jenkins.
The positional coaches get to see their guys three times a week because Lutcher has three different practice structures within the twice-daily workout routines.
“Today is our jayvee-varsity where coaches work both practices. We will have two practices with both sessions. We will a jayvee practice first and we will come back. Tomorrow we will have what we’re calling our ‘gold practice’ days. We still split our guys up jayvee and varsity, but it allows us to cross-train everybody. All our jayvee guys, whether your primary position is offense or defense, everybody works defense. Our varsity guys, even if your primary position is defense, everybody is working on offense. Our defensive staff will take the jayvee practice and our offensive staff will take the varsity practice. We have a third practice structure which brings you in by your primary position,” Jenkins explained.
For the first week of practice with school in session, the Bulldog football players were responsible for their own transportation just as they were in the summer while the school figures out all the logistical concerns,” according to Jenkins.
“This week we will get counts on numbers because that’s another huge issue is just on the transportation piece to see once we have accurate numbers to get kids home from practice and those things,” the Lutcher coach said. “That’s something we will work out this week once we know what those numbers look like.
“The worst thing we could have done was committed to having a bus and we get here at the end of these sessions today and we have 45 kids that can get on a bus that can only holding 30 kids and now we have to run two routes and having to sit around until 8 p.m. waiting for transportation to get sorted out.”
While practice times will be the same as the summer, the emphasis now switches with school now in session.
“We basically, because of the time we lost from March, April and May, we committed our summer to strength and conditioning,” said Jenkins. “We didn’t touch a football. We didn’t come out and do any football work. We thought it was important because we lost those last two-and-a-half months of condition and strength training so that’s what we focused our attention on. Plus, we felt like that was what could be done the safest – the weight room. We divided that up and rotated guys through all summer long.
Now that we’ve kind of got back April and May, now we can get back our June and July, and hopefully, when we get to mid-September, we can pick with August. We used June and July to make up for April and May. Now we are using this kind of six-week extended period to try and make up for things we lost over the summer.”
Also, to be determined is how players who were at school all day and then have football practice compare to those students who were at home all day.
“Probably, with maybe the exception of those kids that had to wake up this morning for the first time at 6, 6:15 and get ready for school, they may be a little extra tired than a kid that got to sleep in a little later and take care of their work at home on their own time. I think that might be the only difference we may see as their bodies adjust to the new schedules,” the Lutcher coach said.
One of the players who was up early for his first day of in-school learning was freshman quarterback Quinn Smith.
“You don’t have that much energy since you are getting up earlier. I make sure to bring enough stuff to school to make sure I have enough energy to get through practice,” said Smith.
Clayton Jenkins, a sophomore quarterback, was at home for the first day of school on Monday.
“Getting up early will be totally different for me over the last four or five months. It will be different, but all changes will have great effects,” Clayton Jenkins said.
Both young quarterbacks agreed that the official start of school helped to provide another level to the preparation for the season.
“The first week of practice (a week ago) I was kind of excited to come out and practice but now that school is actually starting, I’m ready to play some games,” said Smith.
“Last season wasn’t the greatest season for me with an injury, but just coming out here this season, I’m just ready to get the season on so we can show everybody what we’ve got,” Clayton Jenkins said.
The 2020 season already has been delayed and shortened because of COVID-19. When, and how many, games might be played is yet to be determined. Those are factors beyond the players’ control.
“For most of these kids, just being able to get out the house and not be stuck at home and having a chance to be around their friends and their coaches and being able to play the game they love – even though it’s a bit modified right now – that gives us some hope. Hopefully, we can start progressing and trending in the right direction and this thing will allow us to play football on the timeline we have right now. In the meantime, all we can do is control the things we can, and that’s to work and get better in the time we have,” Coach Jenkins said.