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Players' mental health tops concerns for Tar Heels coach Brown
Gaston Gazette - 3/23/2020
With his players beginning on-line studies Monday, North Carolina coach Mack Brown said he's hopeful for a full season of college football but knows the uncertainties that exist.
Separated from his players and assistant coaches, Brown said adjustments come in many forms as he has encouraged his staff to "overcommunicate" with players in the weeks ahead.
On a positive note, Brown said "as far as we know, everyone is healthy" within the Tar Heels program.
With sports on hiatus because of the reaction to coronavirus, Brown said there are widespread concerns to address for personnel within the program.
"First we have to make sure their mental health is good," Brown said, speaking to reporters from home via Zoom, a video communications platform.
Kenan Football Center on campus is closed and it's up to players to follow voluntary workouts that have been set up for them, the coach said.
"We're all creatures of routine and now we're out of that," Brown said.
Few players are in the Chapel Hill area, Brown said. For instance, defensive back Patrice Rene is home in Canada. The coach said it's possible that players in Charlotte and Atlanta areas might be able to work out together.
Brown has been communicating with his staff remotely. Assistant coaches have been in touch with players.
"I'm spending more time with Zoom than I am (my wife) Sally," he said.
Brown said he's preparing for the possibility of summer workouts to replace spring practices lost if that's something that becomes practical and is permitted by the NCAA. He said it's only logical to plan for as much as possible and then reduce that if certain aspects aren't feasible.
The Tar Heels took a couple of extra weeks to work on strength training in the offseason, thus delaying spring practice. That would have begun March 17.
Conditioning and strength training will fall on the players without normal supervision. Among the challenges are finding places to work out.
Perhaps without regular equipment, Brown described one possible regimen of loading backpacks, strapping them on and doing push-ups.
"It's all on them and their parents now," Brown said. "The ones who worked the hardest here are going to be the ones who work (best during the next month or two). ... I think this is the time you find out who you leaders are, who your strong-willed guys are. We're going to find out who's disciplined enough to handle all this."
Planning for summer school is something Brown said is in the works.
If teams are able to return to practice fields in late spring or summer, Brown said evaluations of players' conditions on an individual basis will need to take place.
Like many others, Brown said he's struggling to adjust.
"I have no interests outside of Sports, my faith and family," he said. "I have none."
Also Monday, North Carolina named alum Kevin Donnalley as director of high school relations for the football program. The former NFL player spent the past four years as director of student-athlete development at Charlotte.
Donnalley will oversee all high school communications, serve as the practice guest liaison, and assist with recruiting events and visits.
At Charlotte, Donnalley also worked in strength and conditioning and spent the 2015 season coaching offensive linemen.
Donnalley, who transferred to North Carolina (and played under Brown) from Davidson, logged 13 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman after he was drafted in 1991. His pro playing career was capped by three seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
(c)2020 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.
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