The beginning of 2020 started off like any other year. As his team returned from the holidays, Tompkins Head Coach Todd McVey had his team getting prepared for the fall. Like most coaches, McVey and his staff subscribe to the old adage that, “Champions are made in the off-season”. Shortly before Spring Break hit, the growing concerns of a highly-contagious virus became a full blown pandemic. In a short period of time, Tompkins Head Coach Todd McVey went from his usual off-season routine at school to his office at home.
“There’s no manual for how to manage a pandemic. Coaches are creatures of habit. We like to plan things out as far as a year in advance and have contingencies in place. There’s no way to prepare for something like this. It was surreal when the UIL announced that Spring Sports were suspended indefinitely. Our girls soccer team was having a great season and it was just heartbreaking,” he said. Fortunately for McVey, football was still a little more than five months away. Surely things would be better by then he thought. Initially the lockdown that was put in place helped flatten the curve but as Spring turned to Summer, the greater Houston area became one of the nation’s biggest problem areas. That’s when the Tompkins coaching staff had to consider the very real possibility of the season being cancelled or at best delayed.
On July 21st, the UIL announced that the season would be delayed by a month. Pre-season workouts that were set to get underway on August 3rd were pushed back to September 7th. All things considered it’s the best possible scenario and helped give the coaches and players some clarity on what the uncertain future would hold. “We have a saying called surrender the outcome, meaning we stay focused on what’s right in front of us. If it’s the 1st quarter, we’re not worried about what’s on the scoreboard. Just focus on being the best we can be for the next play. We tell our kids it’s up to them as to how hard they play. When they play their hardest the scoreboard usually takes care of itself,” McVey said.
That same mantra has been repeated in the off-season. Each member of the staff at Tompkins High School has taken on additional responsibilities that none envisioned when they accepted the challenge of coaching football at the highest level in Texas.
That meant getting creative.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that has certainly been the case for McVey and his staff. “I had never heard of zoom until this crisis came along. I had to learn how to adapt quickly in order to continue to coach our kids remotely” he said.
And after reading the book “The Coffee Bean,” he decided to reach out to Damon West, the young author who had written the book. He did so in hopes of having West address his kids through one of his weekly zoom meetings. To his surprise, West was happy to do so and shared a valuable message of how to best deal with the inevitable adversity that comes in life. For McVey, being able to keep his kids engaged and hopeful about a season that was in question through much of the off-season has been one of his biggest challenges professionally. “We’ve spent a lot of time reassuring kids, checking on them as often as possible, and keeping them encouraged. They don’t have the experience and wisdom that we, as coaches, have. We’ve let them know at some point the season would start, and we have to be ready in a district as competitive as ours” he said.
Coaches are used to making adjustments. They have to do so at halftime of every game and, in a sense, they are as prepared as any segment of society to adjust to whatever comes their way. As kickoff to the 2020 season draws closer, McVey is hopeful that the time spent being creative and keeping his kids encouraged will pay big dividends when they open up with Magnolia later this fall.
“I’m more appreciative of the little things now, simple things that we take for granted,” McVey said.