Football head coach Tom Gilmore coaches the football team on Aug. 31, 2019. In March, three new football coaches, Alex Stadler, R.J Chidester and Mark Fetterman, were added to the team. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

New football coaches adjust to remote learning

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After transitioning to remote learning in March, many Lehigh coaches faced obstacles keeping in touch with and supporting their student-athletes. For three coaches in particular, they faced the additional challenge of being introduced to their players in this virtual format. 

Following their hirings the first week of March, Lehigh football offensive line coach Alex Stadler, tight ends coach R.J Chidester and run defense coordinator/linebackers coach Mark Fetterman had just one week in-person to meet their players before classes were moved online for the rest of the semester. 

Within that week, coaches had limited interactions with their players, including introductions in which standards were set and values were briefly outlined. It was a conversation that was intended to be continued throughout the spring, but due to COVID-19, would not be feasible. 

The newest additions to Lehigh football’s coaching staff, however, made it a point to get to know their players and support them in a topsy-turvy year. 

“From the start, we did everything we could to assist players from a football aspect and just from an overall well-being aspect as well,” Stadler said.

Stadler said the adaptiveness and dedication of his players made his unconventional introduction to the team easier.

Each football coach was thrust into an unprecedented situation, regardless of how long they’ve been working with the team. The novelty of the circumstances was something the whole coaching staff could bond over. 

“With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the transition to virtual communications, it has been an adjustment for even those of us not new to the coaching staff,” said defensive line coach Rob Dvoracek. “In that way, we kind of all endured an aspect of newness together.”

As the team moved forward with virtual communications via Zoom, the entire coaching staff prioritized making themselves available to their players. 

In conjunction with the strength and conditioning staff, the coaches strived to offer an assortment of workouts based upon the circumstances of each individual’s remote training environment.

Junior offensive lineman Jan Maciejewski did not let his coaches’ hard work go unnoticed. 

“Both our strength and coaching staffs really adjusted quickly and worked to make it as easy as possible for us to receive assistance and to have many options for training,” Maciejewski said.

While the team only had a short period together before athletics were indefinitely shut down Sept. 29,  just 22 days after resuming practice, Stalder saw promising results. 

“Since being back together, it has been good seeing some carryover of things we have talked about virtually being applied to the workouts we have been able to do,” Stadler said.

Despite not knowing when they will get back on the field, Maciejewski is remaining optimistic. 

“At the beginning of remote learning, as a team, we made it clear that our mission was still on,” Maciejewski said. “It could be given back to us just quickly as it was taken away. You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

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