It's not the season yet, but the pandemic has been tough on fall coaches like Wahconah's Gary Campbell Jr.
There can be no doubt that the cancellation of spring sports in high schools across Massachusetts had an adverse impact on players and coaches alike. The trickle-down impact of school being closed has also had an impact on coaches who played their 2019-20 seasons, and are looking forward to the 2020-21 season.
That's because the COVID-19 pandemic has kept coaches away from their players.
"This is really difficult for someone like me," Wahconah football coach and teacher Gary Campbell Jr. said. "For my personality, this is very difficult. I'm struggling with it."
Campbell, who is scheduled to begin his ninth season this fall in his second tenure as the Warriors' head coach, has been holed up in his Peru home, much like coaches from the Vermont border to the Connecticut state line. Campbell said he misses seeing his players, and the other students, walking through the halls at Wahconah.
"I'm a people person. I'm a handshake guy. I'm a 'What's up?' guy. I am a body language guy. I'm a look them in the eyes guy, evaluate the kids every day," Campbell said. "Do they need help? How are things going? I'm a pick 'em, optimistic guy."
Even up in the hill towns, the Wahconah coach is doing his best to keep in touch with his staff and his players.
"To be honest with you right now, I'm trying to keep in touch with my guys," he said, "via text, via zoom and Google Meet. Just trying to make sure that everybody is good, number one. Number two, staying active and prepared for when we get going, hopefully, in the fall."
If the current schedules hold, Campbell won't officially welcome the 2021 Wahconah football team to the practice field until August. But while he waits through the pandemic, the coach said he's been keeping busy watching a lot of football on his computer.
"There's no doubt," Campbell said in a phone interview. "As you called me right now, I was making a fruit salad for the kids and I had on my laptop Boston College's Rich Gunnell, the running backs coach, and I was watching his presentation on what they are doing to install their things with the new head coach [Jeff Hafley], and stuff like that. I'm picking up tidbits. I've been watching the Boston College clinics all week. I kept in touch with UMass and what they're doing, and certainly kept in touch with my guys."
The Wahconah coach said that the time away from school has allowed him to be, in his words, more reflective about what they do and how they do it.
"We are certainly scouring the internet and scouring different things and reflecting on our teachings and what we do," he said. "There's always an 'ah-ha' moment, like why do I do that."
One thing Campbell said he's been doing while at home is a lot of self-scouting of his team last year, and others.
"It's completely relevant. We've been in the basic scheme of things the last five years or so," he said. "So I've gone all the way back to 2014. I've watched through, and just the progression of our tendencies. We're clearly a multiple team, a power-based team with a little zone read offensively. Defensively, as we look, we did the same thing here against the same team four years ago. Are we becoming predictable, and what can we do to change it up? There is no doubt, we look back and I look back. It's kind of fun to scout yourself.
"I like it, and I enjoy seeing some of the really dumb things I do, and go 'What the heck was I thinking.'"
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.