New area football coaches eager to begin summer workouts
This year’s football offseason was unlike any other.
With the coronavirus hitting around the time spring workouts where to begin, many schools did not get to take a single snap in spring practice. It also meant coaches hired in the offseason, like new Kemper County head coach Ray Westerfield, were unable to meet with their new teams.
“It’s been kind of difficult because we utilize the spring to kind of find strengths and weaknesses in our players and learn how to put them in different positions to be successful," Westerfield said. "We didn’t have that so it definitely hurt. It also hurt me getting a chance to know them, know their parents and know their backgrounds.”
Westerfield was supposed to be formally introduced as the new head football coach after spring break. However, when the Coronavirus hit and schools shutdown, that was never able to happen.
The one advantage Westerfield has is that he is no stranger to the area. A 2006 graduate from Kemper County, he played football for the Wildcats and later coached under Darryl Carter and Chris Jones.
Having been on staff during Kemper County's 2016 3A State Championship run, he wants to help the program get back on the winning track. Even though he’s missed out on time to make that happen, he knows other programs have as well.
“With me taking over a program that’s been kind of down over the last couple of years at first I kind of looked at it as a disadvantage because I didn’t get a chance to get the kids in the weight room and get them stronger," Westerfield explained. "But at the same time, no one is in the weight room so that may give us an advantage and give us a chance to try and catch up to our competition.”
Jordan Wren was another coach hired in the offseason to take over Union’s football program. His hire was made official in February.
“I would say that I’m definitely blessed more than other coaches," Wren said. "I know a few schools around the state have had to hire coaches in the last six weeks and I’m ahead of them. I’m fortunate that I was hired in early February.”
While Wren did meet with his new team prior to schools closing, he has not had the opportunity to see them perform on the practice field. He is hoping players took advantage off the time off as an opportunity to improve on their own.
"I think the first week we’re going to be able to tell really quick who the leaders are of this team and who cares about the team. If they care and they are true leaders, they’ve got the self-discipline to go out and keep themselves in shape," Wren said. "Some kids may struggle with it and you’re going to know those are the kids just doing it for fun. Then you’re going to have the other kids that say ‘hey I love this and I want to make this team big and do something big for this community’ and those kids are going to be the ones who have done something these last few months."
While Wren is ready to see what his new team is capable of physically in summer workouts, he is more focused on establishing meaningful connections with his players and their families over the next few weeks.
“I think with anything relationships are the number one most important thing," Wren explained. "I’ve talked to a lot of kids since we’ve been out and a lot of parents since we’ve been out...the thing I’ve tried to do with the relationships that I’ve already built is keep them strong by communicating with those kids and with the parents. I am excited about being able to build more relationships with the kids coming back June 1.”
All MHSAA summer workouts are voluntary, meaning no player will be penalized for failure to participate.