Covington High football coach J.R. Kirby has been spending a lot of time lately cruising in his boat on Pickwick Lake.

Munford football coach Slade Calhoun spent part of today cleaning up a mess his five-year-old daughter made in the garage.

Both coaches are about to be busy doing some coaching instead next week.


Director of Tipton County Schools Dr. John Combs tweeted out today that, starting May 26, the day after Memorial Day, fall sports teams and bands at county middle and high schools can begin offseason conditioning with COVID-19 restrictions.

Fall sports include football, golf, volleyball, cross country and girls’ soccer. Combs said in June the board will consider allowing other sports to conduct offseason workouts.

“You know I love the lake, but I’m so happy to be back working on football, I can tell you that. It’s like winning the lottery, the news I got,” Kirby said. “I can’t even put into words how excited I am. It’s like Christmas morning when you’re 10 years old and you run down stairs to get that new bike. I’m so excited to be around the kids again. The kids are pumped.”

“We’re real excited about coming back,” Calhoun said. “The kids were really excited when they heard the news and the coaches are excited about going back to work. Everybody’s been cooped up so long it’s nice to be able to do something. Even thought it’s restricted, something is better than nothing.”

Combs said each school principal has been instructed to submit a plan for offseason activities. Once those plans are approved by the school board athletes and band members can get back to work.

With COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed around the state and several area school districts already allowing offseason workouts, Combs feels like the time is right for Tipton County.

“There are a number of systems around us that are beginning to open up or are planning to open up,” Combs said. “We don’t want our athletes to be behind and we think we can do this with the correct restrictions. We want to make sure we are able to prepare our athletes as the other districts are, but maintain restrictions so we can be as safe as possible.”

Exactly what will those restrictions be? Nothing is set in stone just yet, but coaches are already planning for next Tuesday and trying to figure out what that will look like.

Kirby and Calhoun both said only small groups (probably 10) will be allowed to work out together and everyone’s temperature will be taken every day before entering the facility. Social distancing and sanitization will also be a big part of the plan.

Calhoun said he plans to wait 15 minutes between group sessions so everything can be cleaned. He also said the locker room and other common areas will not be available to players and he’s not sure if players will be allowed to share footballs. Munford has about 85 players in grades nine through 12.

“We’re working out the logistics as far as different groups not crossing paths and using the weight room and the practice field,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to have be mindful of where everybody’s going to be.”

“We’ll have different groups, kind of like we did at graduation,” said Kirby, who expects to have about 70 players. “We’re going to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s going to be challenging at times. We’re going to have to do the best we can. It’s going to look different for a little bit.”

No team on Munford’s regular season schedule has starting working out yet. Other than Covington and Brighton, all the teams reside in Shelby County, which has not opened back up.

“Nobody ever wants to feel like they’re behind,” Calhoun said. “In the grand scheme of things, are two weeks going to make a difference? I don’t know … We’re not getting behind schedule compared to anyone else, we’re just behind where we would normally be because we already missed spring football. A lot of young guys could have gotten some experience they missed out on.”

Two teams – Milan and South Gibson – on Covington’s schedule have already begun offseason workouts. Kirby is not too concerned about that, though he did say getting kids back into a routine will take some time.

“You see other people working and you want to go to work,” Kirby said. “Do I feel like we’re behind? No, because we’ve got so many kids coming back. They know our system and that hasn’t changed. Mental toughness is a big thing with us and we’ll just have to catch up on that, but at the end of the day, when November comes, I think the cream will rise to the top. They know the end goal. We don’t have to talk to them much about that.”

Said Calhoun: “Kids haven’t been in a routine for two and a half months. I send them workouts, but I’m not there waking them up. Teenagers sleep late. Maybe until we get the green light to advance into what we normally do this is a time to get them back in a routine.”

Down at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, school officials are hoping to open up their facilities for offseason workouts on June 1.

Football coach Shannon O’Brien said TRA has to follow Shelby County Health Department guidelines.

“We’ve passed the info on to our players and parents,” O’Brien said. “Our administration and all our coaches are working together to formulate a plan. We’ve talked with other schools on how they’re doing it and building our plan. June 1 is not set in stone, but it is our target date. Things could change for better or worse, but we won’t do anything before June 1.”






Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland