New coach Jared Clark was hoping to see his players on the field for the first time.
This is not how Jared Clark’s first offseason with Cardinal Mooney football was supposed to go.
Clark, a Mooney alumnus, was hired as the team’s football coach in February after 15 years in the profession, most recently as Riverview High’s offensive coordinator under former Mooney coach Josh Smithers. Finally, Clark had a chance to run his own program, and spring football would be his first chance to evaluate the team’s on-field talent — with an emphasis on “would be.”
The coronavirus pandemic prompted the Florida High School Athletic Association to shut down all activities for the spring sports season. That includes spring football, which was supposed to be happening throughout May. Instead, teams are at home. Coaches, Clark included, are left wondering how to proceed.
“This was supposed to be an important spring for us,” Clark said. “It’s a new team. It was a chance to see how each of my players moves on the field. It was a chance to see which guys should play where. It was a chance to see the numbers and where our strengths are, and it was a chance to, of course, install our base offensive and defensive playbooks.”
Clark said he’s a hands-on coach. He likes to talk to people in person, hashing plans out in group meetings. The quarantine has forced him to become more tech savvy, he said. Clark said the good news, at least in that area, is everyone is facing the same challenges for the moment.
To that end, Clark has been giving his players home workouts that replicate what they would be doing in the Mooney weight room: two days of upper-body and two days of lower body per week, while suggesting alternative exercises for players without home equipment. For example, players without a weight bar for back squats can do single leg Bulgarian squats or lunges instead.
Clark said he also plans on having players meet regularly with their position coaches via Zoom calls to get more personalized instruction. He is looking to the team’s seniors to be leaders, he said, whether that is by keeping tabs on everyone’s workout schedules or organizing small groups for games of catch.
Meanwhile, the on-field evaluations will have to wait. Clark said he wishes he knew when he would be able to see his team on the field again. It would make planning easier, he said. He doesn’t, though, and he emphasized that the safety of everyone involved takes priority when planning these things.
Clark said he has been impressed with how his Cougars have handled the challenges thrown their way. Eventually, the Cougars will take the field again, and Clark is confident his team will be ready to work as hard as possible to make up for the time lost.
“I have not heard a single complaint from them,” Clark said. “From the beginning, ever since I started getting to know these kids, they have shown resilience.”