BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. — Taking the reins of the North-West Nodaway co-oped football team amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Alan Calfee is inheriting a program that is doubling as a juggling act.
Calfee, who graduated from West Nodaway in 2007 and returned to teach after earning his degree on a five-year track at Northwest Missouri State University in 2012, has a lot to balance after being confirmed as the newest head coach of the Muskets last week.
Along with the traditional challenges new coaches in every football program face in trying to ready their teams for the upcoming fall season, Calfee is doing so while trying to ensure the safety of his players amid the pandemic as the goalposts for what safety might look like continues to evolve.
“That, you know — it changes daily,” Calfee said. “It changes daily as far as guidelines that we have, and then we look at all the CDC and health regulations, and those seem to change constantly. And just with the whole thing, there’s so much uncertainty that no one really has the answers. Because we’ve really never dealt with anything like this before.”
At the helm of the program, though, Calfee has had to come up with answers.
In his first meeting with the team, which was held via the newly-popular video conference service Zoom, Calfee and his staff used part of the introductory meeting to try and put parents’ minds at ease in regards to the pandemic.
Calfee said he relayed to his players and their parents what he had hoped to accomplish this summer, though some of those plans have been altered by the new coronavirus. He introduced his staff to a group of players who were largely familiar with Calfee through his time coaching at the junior high level, he said. And he vowed to make modifications to the Muskets’ summer programming to address any virus concerns parents might have.
“It’s different,” Calfee said. “Kids will follow the expectations and guidelines that we set for them — we’ve just got to be consistent on it, as far as socially distancing and then constantly reminding kids, ‘Hey, you need to wipe that down with a disinfectant wipe.’ Stuff like that.”
“Once they get in the routine of it, it’s pretty second nature to them,” he added.
Even though he’s only met with his team face-to-face once, during a Wednesday evening workout, Calfee’s ambitions for the Muskets are clear. He wants what every football coach wants, he said. He wants to win every game this fall. And he understands how the team might get there.
The limits placed on full-team practices over the summer, implemented by MSHSAA and complicated by the pandemic, leave North-West Nodaway’s opportunities for growth rare. Calfee said when the team does gather, the Muskets need to be focused on improving. They can’t control what the virus might do to restrict how they practice or how it might alter their schedule this fall, so Calfee doesn’t want to spend energy on it.
“I’m gonna preach — not preach, I guess — big really harp in controlling what we can control,” Calfee said. “Control the things that are within our control, that’s effort and attitude. That’s one thing that I’m gonna kinda want us to hang our hat on.”
Outside of winning, though, Calfee wants something more. Of course, the coach is trying to make the students on his team into better football players. He’s trying to win as many games as he can this fall — that’s why Calfee is planning on having the Muskets participate in at least two camps this summer.
And Calfee is trying to offer some stability at the helm of the program. North-West Nodaway has gone through a myriad of coaching changes since first co-oping in the mid-2010s, he said. Calfee plans to be around a while. He plans on implementing whatever offensive scheme fits the talent on this team best. He wants to have the team ready to play in August. He hopes to have his players ready for life beyond high school football.
“I want to be here for kids to help them out in whatever way I can,” Calfee said. “I know that’s not really going along with the whole football side of it, but I mean, (I want) to help them become better people, teaching them life skills that are gonna help them down the road.”