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County football programs using technology to stay in touch

The cancellation of sporting activities and practice sessions due to the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed what would normally be in person athletic program practice sessions into virtual sessions so football coaches and their players can stay connected.

Social media, text messages, phone calls and other modern forms of communication have become the only way for athletes to stay in touch with their coaches until athletic activities are allowed to resume.

Picayune Head Coach Cody Stogner said that after the first week of athletic activities being cancelled he and his staff created workout routines for their athletes for the players who had weights at home and those who don’t.

“Of course the main focus will be to make sure everybody is healthy and focused on getting in shape. It’s something to encourage the guys to do stuff,” Stogner said.

Pearl River Central Head Coach Jacob Owen said his players won’t be too far behind because they’re used to the offensive and defensive systems in place.

Familiarity with positions and responsibilities will allow athletes to hit the ground running when practices resume.

“The main thing is our kids have been in the same system now going on three years. They’re pretty familiar with what we’re doing,” Owen said.

Organized athletics is currently not allowed, but there’s still plenty of work to be done by athletes in the classroom.

Players have to make sure they keep their grades up to be eligible for the start of the season.

The coaches have used their influence and interaction with their athletes to make sure everyone is on track academically.

“We’ve been using Twitter and making sure players are checking their student emails to see if there’s been any work sent from their teacher,” Stogner said.

Owen said he and his coaches have been in constant contact and have virtual meetings once a week.

The lack of in person interaction has led to more time spent online and Owen said they’re doing their best to plan for whatever happens next.

“June 1 is the date (we can start again). We meet once a week virtually on the laptop and that’s what we’re planning on right now. Obviously, it’s going to look a lot different than it normally would,” Owen said.

There is growing optimism as more states reopen their economies and progress is made on a possible vaccine, but that doesn’t mean athletics will automatically return to the way it used to be.

Stogner said dealing with that uncertainty won’t shake his excitement to get back on the field again.

“I don’t’ want to get my hopes up, but at the same time I do have my hopes up because everybody is ready to get back. I’m ready to see these kids, see my coworkers again and get back to work,” Stogner said.

A representative for the Poplarville football program was unavailable for comment prior to press time.