FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High football coach Damenyum Springs is busy circling his practice field tending to social distancing rules and cleanliness during his week one of conditioning, but the missed part of the process is his one-on-one talks with his athletes.
“I don’t know a lot of these guys and they don’t know me,” said Springs, who is trying to follow an unbeaten season with two playoff games with a severely drained roster to graduation including a four-year quarterback with a handful of airborne weaponry and an all-state defensive lineman plus a strong linebacker crew. “I like looking kids in the eye to see what’s going on in their head, but all we can do now is walk them off the field six feet apart and make sure they leave. It’s tough. Football is emotional.”
At his first week of conditioning, Springs noted 30-40 athletes on the field with the bulk of time dedicated to paperwork and physicals.
“All of it was conditioning with little football stuff out there,” said Springs. “It’s a little more challenging because of the virus safety aspect. The focus is more on the safety then football, but it is necessary and we have to do it.”
Springs noted there is a monitoring group that maintains protocol.
“As the head coach, I’m walking around making sure kids are six feet apart and drinking their own water,” said Springs. “It’s different because I’m not that engaged in football yet.”
With some key returners; T.K. Kocak and returning quarterback transfer Grant Travis, leading the Golden Eagle troops, Springs sees more work needed for the newer, younger athletes.
“You can tell those guys have used personal trainers and kept their own conditioning to a high level,” said Springs. “We are kind of behind in that part of summer conditioning. The skill players stayed in shape with some of the lineman a little behind.”
Springs lamented the separation of himself with his team and hoped that the distancing aspect could be overcome in the future.
“It’s a little negative and I miss that part of coaching,” said Springs. “Next week, we can add the weight room into the week’s preparations; 20 kids at a time, plus we will put some weights outside, with a third group on the field.”
Springs noted a bonus of having an actual football for the upcoming week.
“We are allowed to have a ball, but we can’t have contact; blocking, tackling, and we have to clean the ball after someone touches it,” said Springs. “Little steps are all we can do.”
Springs noted the challenge is a new aspect of his coaching tactics, but that every team is going through the same process.
“We are all in the same situation and we are all learning the best way to approach this,” said Springs. “Each phase of the four is built off staying with the process for each one.”