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First-year football coaches face additional challenges with COVID-19 delay

Hueneme first-year coach Jon Mack has been restricted to video calls with his players since March.
Hueneme first-year coach Jon Mack has been restricted to video calls with his players since March.
(Hueneme)

First-year football coaches usually have all spring and summer to play catch-up, putting in new systems, learning about players, and trying to change culture. COVID-19 changed all that. There was no spring, there was no summer.

“We’ve lost so much time in the weight room and so much time to train guys,” Hueneme first-year coach Jon Mack said. “The net result I’m concerned about. But I’m also proud of the guys, how they’ve handled it. They’re doing a great job training on their own and communicating.”

First-year coaches across Southern California have been scrambling in an attempt to make changes without being able to direct players in person. After weeks of relying only on video calls and asking players to stand up to see how tall they look on a computer screen, coaches are starting to meet players as schools allow conditioning workouts under strict safety guidelines. It’s much better than relying on video calls.

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Hueneme finally is scheduled to begin conditioning workouts Monday. Mack, who has coached for more than 40 years and was head coach at St. Bonaventure, Crespi, Oxnard and Ventura College, is known for getting the most out of his players through workouts and training. That’s why he’s trying his best to catch up by the time the season begins in January.

“I can’t imagine listening to me talking four hours a week, one hour a day,” he said of his experience with video calls. “There’s a lot to go over, but it’s not anywhere near being able to wrap it up on the field. It’s a huge distance compared to teams that know their guys and know their system. My kids know it on a whiteboard and on film, but none have executed.”

Mack isn’t complaining. He embraces challenges, he said, and this season “will be the biggest challenge putting it together.”

He’s already done something he never thought possible — he’s become more expert at Zoom. Well, sort of.

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“I’m a beginner,” he said. “I can toggle between video and a whiteboard.”


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