In times like these, folks look for something that makes them feel comfortable. When I heard that Coach Kelly was on ESPN Wednesday night, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity. Notre Dame Football is what fans want to hear about in March, not a virus you can’t see. Coach Kelly looked like he is ready to hit the field. The only thing he can do now is hit the phones and pray for everyone’s health. Scott Van Pelt doesn’t hesitate in the interview and he jumps right into it.
SVP: “Coach, everyone’s got a story as this became something that quickly morphed into something we’ve never experienced. How did you and your team kind of process it before everybody went their separate ways?”
Coach Kelly: “Well, you’re right Scott. I mean, we’re all trying to figure this out. 30 years of being a head football coach, I thought I had the manual written and read. But no, that’s not the case. So we’re all trying to figure it out, I think one thing for certain is player safety, student-athlete safety, staff support, staff making sure that first and foremost that everybody is healthy and safe. You know, we’re student athletes, you know, where’s the education piece come in and our football coaches took off the football coaches hat and put on the academic support hat and it’s been challenging. But it’s been fun in that respect too, because it’s been something different.”
The pressure of trying to prepare for any season has it’s difficulties, but throwing this into the mix is a huge obstacle for this program. Knowing where the program wants to go, and as a whole, now Coach Kelly needs to work with the psychological aspect of a pandemic with the student-athletes will be a challenge onto itself. Football is more than a physical game, it’s a game that depends on the mind.
SVP: “We all understand the bigger concern here is this pandemic, but again, we’re a sports show, your football coach and my guy Stanford Steve told me an interesting story. When he was playing at Stanford, the guys who stay on campus during the summer were always way ahead of the guys that had gone home during the summer when Camp began. Well, now everyone’s gone. So when we finally get back to it and you finally start trying to ramp up and catch up to the Spring ball that you missed and all this and that in the summer how big a challenge brian do you think it’ll be to get everybody where you hope they might be?”
Coach Kelly: “Well, I was listening to your segment earlier with Rob Manfred. I like double headers. Why not? Let’s do double headers in college football. Maybe you know two games a week. Look there’s going to be a date where we all as college football administrators and coaches come up with a date where from the player safety standpoint we have to say this is the date that we can live with to get these young men physically conditioned and ready to go into camp.”
Double headers! That is absolutely funny. The sound of concern did not match the smile on his face. You have to poke fun at the situation like this. Imagine having to prep for two games in one week, get everyone rested and wounds taken care in short turn around, this was a great response. Sure, why not throw another challenge at the season. Of course, this was in jest.
SVP: “Do you have any idea what’s in your mile post in your brain, your mind was that look like what would it be?”
Coach Kelly: “To me, I think July 1. I mean if you can’t start training your football team by July 1. You’re going to need at least four weeks. Strength and conditioning coaches are going to want six. You know sports medicine is probably looking at, you know, four to six weeks. I think the real the realistic goal here is minimum of four weeks of conditioning before you put them in camp. College football is going to be affected if we’re not playing in 90 days in terms of the conditioning element and getting these young men ready.”
The one thing that is important to a successful program is routine. Right now, Coach Kelly doesn’t have any control of the student-athlete’s daily schedule. Time not spent in the strength and conditioning period of the winter month’s means forced strength and conditioning when the program get’s turned back on. For now Coach Kelly has to hope that each of the player’s are committing to the plan laid out by the coaching staff.
SVP:”Life blood to college sports is recruiting. the old line, If you don’t it’s like shaving if you don’t do it every day, you look up you look like a bum. How are you all able to recruit without the ability to see people without the ability to have more campus. What’s that look like?”
Coach Kelly: “Every recruit is very popular right now. Because coaches have plenty of time to be on the phone, to be using FaceTime, all the social platforms where you can get out. We’re being so creative with our Graphics. You’re getting a lot of traffic right now. And so I feel for the young men out there in this recruiting process right now. They probably are sick of us already and we’ve only been at this for a few weeks. You know, we’ve got to be careful as well. I mean, we’ve got to have some semblance of normalcy here pretty soon when it comes to recruiting. Because right It’s unlimited in the sense that you know, you can be on the phone and in a sense that you can make that one phone call, but they can get back to you every single day.”
Coach Kelly understands how difficult it is to get top recruits to campus. Face to face time with each recruit is essential. As Coach Polian said back in December, it’s about being with the recruits and the families. Coaches understand parents play a role in the recruits final decision. When there is a no in person contact rule in place it needs to be followed. Use of social media is an absolute must. Because the impact of this restriction doesn’t effect this season, but next season. The actions taken now, will make help in making this a seamless transition when all this passes.
SVP: “I’m asking every guest we have on, just how you are. I mean, this is something we’ve never dealt with you and I have known each other a long time. I appreciate the football piece. But I mean you got a life you got Our family got kids the whole bit. How are you guys doing?”
Coach Kelly: “You know, we’re not out, we’re being very careful other than me doing this interview. We’ve tried to do everything on social media as well. But we’re being very careful about what we do. Because you know, it’s still about our family and the health that we have. But you know, we’re not taking guests over the house. We’re being very careful in terms of what we do and I’ll tell you what it’s kind of nice as a football coach that’s been in for 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of my family and it is kind of nice that we’ve been able to take advantage of this time to do with our families.”
In the end, Coach Kelly is a son, husband, and a father before he is a coach. Though he is a father to his players. Being the role model to these young men will set the path forward for them after their playing days at Notre Dame. Instilling the morals and culture that goes beyond the playing field. If there was every a stress before the start of the season, this year will challenge the entire staff of Notre Dame Football.
The staff of Shake Down The Thunder Sports wants to let you know, we are there with you in these tough times. Our motto, #BeyondPlayingSports is not something we just came up with. We have been carrying that motto since day one, it’s a mindset we all must take up.
Click here for link to Coach Kelly’s interview with Scott Van Pelt