Ryan Antoine has a message — a warning if you will — for those Westgate High football players that are not necessarily focused on handling their responsibilities during this time of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That warning is simple — Antoine and his staff know what you are and more importantly what you are not doing.
“If you are not putting in the work then you are not going to be playing in the fall,” Antoine said. “You are going to get what you put out. We are a results driven program. Don’t give us excuses. Just gives us results.
“Look, you can play Fortnite until 5 to 6 in the morning,” Antoine added. “You can do that but we will find out because when you return we are going to have a conditioning test waiting for you. We will know who put in the work.”
High school coaches across the Teche Area have been dealing with the new normal that is life during a pandemic — absolute zero contact with their players in-person, no traditional spring time practices and being forced to communicate with dozens of teenagers virtually.
“It has been crazy,” Antoine said. “It has been really different. For us, we know that some of our kids need the structure we provide but we have adapted as a staff and as a team. I think for us the silver lining is that our coaches have been able to spend more time with their families.”
Loreauville head coach Terry Martin has also taken advantage of spending more quality time with his kids. His oldest son is an incoming freshman on the team who has helped him with workouts, and even filming videos.
As rewarding as that time has been, Martin is also concerned about his other “kids” — those young men that make up his football team.
“I think everyone in the area and throughout the state is in the same boat,” Martin said. “It is still extremely tough. There are some kids on our team that are not doing anything at all. That is the great fear once we get started at all.
“Typically you will have great participation and turnout in June and that allows us to give them off the Fourth of July,” Martin added. “The concern is now that it is going to be even harder for them to get back started. By that time, it will be the fourth month of a layoff. It will be tough transition for everybody when we come back.”
To help counter that fear of having multiple players trying to shake off months of rust, Teche Area coaches have put together immensely detailed workout and film study game plans through different digital platforms.
For example Martin has designed speed drills, intense sprint activities and free weight routines for his players to utilize on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The players work on changing direction, jumping and explosion activities on Tuesday and Thursday.
Martin also shares these workout plans, playbook schemes and video demonstrations, through multiple platforms such as Hudl, a GroupMe account with his team, and the Loreauville High Parent App and Loreauville Junior High Parent App.
“I realized when we entered the third weekend of the spring being suspended that we may not be able to go back to school,” said Martin, who installed the team’s base concepts prior to the pandemic. “You can’t see who is watching at that time or interact with them one-on-one live but I can see who has seen it and who hasn’t it. To be honest, there have been some kids that haven’t watched many of the videos at all. That tell us as a staff a lot.”
Antoine has had similar success with virtual coaching. The Westgate head coach has been communicating with his players and coaching staff through Google Meetings and the MaxOne app.
“All of our workouts have been assigned on there,” Antoine said. “The kids just log in and they have to tell us that they are doing the workouts. We get them to send videos of them doing the assigned workouts. We have created a leadership board for points earned by completing the tasks. We have been using the app since the winter so we had to do was accelerate that even more.”
New Iberia Senior High head coach Curt Ware was looking forward to having spring football. Ware was wanting to build off the momentum gained late in the 2019 season and thought having a spring scrimmage would be a “great confidence builder.”
Like Martin, Ware and his staff have been utilizing Hudl to communicate with the Yellow Jackets. In addition to workout routines, Ware and his staff have been promoting nutrition.
“We have tried to give them as much of a routine as possible — with an emphasis on building general strength, and getting out to run. We also post nutrient diet so they don’t sit around and eat Little Debbies all day.”
Ware, who says his senior-led team has had good participation, admits that sometimes the kids that aren’t accessing the videos or game plans can be attributed to a lack of reliable internet at home.
Ware admits that the pandemic has changed everything.
Scott Wattigny, meanwhile, is still finalizing his coaching staff.
The former Archbishop Hannan head coach is taking over the Catholic High football team after Brent Indest retired following the 2019 season. Yet, Wattigny said that challenge, and the social distancing, hasn’t affected his players.
“This hasn’t slowed us down,” Wattigny said. “We had already uploaded the game plans so things have been going pretty normal. This has been crippling for the community and high risk professionals like a dental hygienist (which is wife is one) but not for me as a coach. I haven’t slowed down.”
Wattigny also credits that the “new normal” has been made easier by the fact that the Panthers’ standard is already so high as the players “are going to do what they need to do and are expected to do.”
What about any concerns about implementing the new wrinkles to the offensive and defensive schemes? Wattigny said there will be time for that later.
“I haven’t done anything football related with the players because I feel that is premature,” said Wattigny, who has recently purchased the Just Play for Football platform for the team. “We are going to keep some things offensively by running the Wing-T but there is no sense to put the cart before the horse until you get the entire staff together. Then we will work on that other stuff.”
When the coaches will actually get to work out their players in person, run actual live drills or even have their quarterbacks throw the ball (which is not allowed due to the restrictions put in place by the LHSAA), all the coaches admit that patience is going to be key over the summer and into the fall.
“You can do all the 7-on-7, coverage drills that you want but you can’t replicate what those kids across the line of scrimmage can do,” Martin said. “You can’t do this unless you see them go against another live body. When will that be? We don’t know yet.”
“We are going to take our time,” Antoine said. “This virus is serious. This virus is taking lives by the boat load. We want to make sure we take our time with this, protect ourselves and our community. This bigger than wins and losses. We going to listen to the guidelines, we are going to adapt we are going have an adjustment for the adjustment.”
The silver lining in all of this may just be a level of appreciation for being part of your school’s football team, and a better understanding at what it takes to succeed on and off the field.
“Everybody is a creature of habit but this has changed everything,” Ware said. “We got shut down on the March 13th it has been two months. Players, coaches alike like to complain about the schedule and grind of football. But there is that old line ‘you don’t know what you have until its gone’. I think all of us have learned and appreciated it more.”