New area head coaches are having to find ways to meet their new players in unprecedented times.

Both Nettleton head football coach John Keith and Smithville boys basketball coach DJ Burress were finally able to meet their new players face-to-face in the last few days.

Burress met with his players on Sunday, while Keith met his on Tuesday night.

Nettleton held a meet-and-greet with Keith and players in the school parking lot. They sectioned off the meeting by grade, with each group of kids having 30 minutes to meet and speak to Keith.

They required students to stay six feet apart, not to arrive earlier than five minutes before their allotted time period, and to stay in their vehicles until it was their time to meet. Keith said around 80 football players came, from seventh to 12th grade.

‘Awkward way’

“This was my first chance to get to meet them,” Keith said. “It was an awkward way to do it, but it was still the first time for me to stand in front of them and meet them. I was able to stand in front of parents and explain how we would handle summer workouts and multi-sport athletes, especially in these first few summer weeks.”

Burress, who has far fewer players, was able to host the majority of his roster at one time. After mostly communicating through group text, the Smithville basketball team met in the gym on Sunday.

Burress said 17 of his 20 players showed up, from ninth to 12th grade, and he was able to stand on the court while the players sat in the stands.

The players were far enough apart from each other to maintain health guidelines.

“I didn’t want the first time the players seeing me in person to be when I was running them to death next week,” Burress said with a laugh. “So I asked my supervisors if I could just meet with them this weekend for 10 or 15 minutes.

“They came in just so I could introduce myself and put a face to a name.”

Both coaches will begin to see their players more often starting next week, June 1, which is when the MHSAA is allowing teams to begin working out and holding intrasquad practices and scrimmages.

Twitter: @DLMiddleton8

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