For many SWAC coaches, there is a newfound tension that comes with attempting to prepare for and navigate a spring season that features a host of unknowns that can’t be planned for or anticipated.
There is only so much that can be controlled when functioning in the midst of a pandemic where one slip-up could result in a significant setback or worse.
Southern head coach Dawson Odums described being in this unenviable position on a daily basis as a kind of “pressure” that tests all aspects of a program just to function.
“You can’t imagine the amount of pressure that’s being placed on individuals, and not just from a football standpoint,” Odums said Monday. “We’re not just dealing with playing football we’re dealing with everyday events of life.”
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Like many football programs, Southern has not escaped the impact of COVID-19 on or off the field. Several players, said Odums, have personally been affected by the virus, with parents and relatives becoming intimate with its horrifying tentacles.
“Some of these young men have had family members that have been affected,” said Odums. “(They) have (been) close family members, uncles parents. It’s been a lot to deal with and a lot to budget. Just dealing with the unknown.”
Since the virus is virtually everywhere, and everyone is aware it can strike without warning even under the best of circumstances, that makes even routine road trips for games — like the journey Southern embarked on to play Alabama State last Friday — rather tenuous.
“I don’t know if somebody is going to wake up on Friday morning and tell me, “Hey, Coach, I don’t feel good,” said Odums. “Now, what does that do to your program? All these ‘what ifs’ and all of these unknowns is something you’re going to have to deal with until you get to kick-off.”
Southern did not have a single positive COVID-19 test leading up to its season opener. But the specter of what may lie ahead from moment to moment is cumbersome.
“I tell people this every day. This is not a week-to-week challenge, this is a day-to-day challenge,” said Odums. “From injuries, from positive tests, from people just being sick, this is a challenge and it weighs on you as a head coach.”