Todd Graham does not have time for the pain — or to complain.
Two seasons since he departed Arizona State, Graham had been looking forward to his first spring practice as the University of Hawaii’s head football coach. The first of 15 spring practices was set for today. But spring training, as well as all football-related activities, was canceled for the spring semester because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m chomping at the bit,” said Graham, who was hired as Nick Rolovich’s successor in January. “I want to be on that grass (field) every day with (the players). … Taking 24 months off, and getting the opportunity to come here, I can’t tell you how pumped up I was to be on the field (today). And then you get kind of a curveball thrown at you. It gives you the opportunity to show your players, and to teach them, how do you respond? What do you do? You stay positive, you stay poised, and you adjust. I told them: ‘What you do in the next six to eight weeks will determine whether we’re playing for a championship in December. That’s our goal.’”
With the Manoa campus closed and classes moved online, the Rainbow Warriors are scattered. Graham has established a layer of communication. Through Zoom, a video-conference system, the coordinators keep in contact with their groups, and the position coaches with their players. Graham also set up a program in which players serve as mentors to three teammates.
“It teaches players you’ve got three guys you’ve got to talk to every day,” Graham said of the concept he has used at previous coaching jobs. “You’re responsible to make sure they do their academics, workouts, film study, team-building stuff. It creates accountability. I like small groups. I don’t think leadership is about speech. It’s about walk. This teaches players.”
He also implores players to communicate with each other through telephone calls.
“It’s not about texting,” Graham said. “You and I can text all day long, but when we get on the phone, and you start talking and interacting, it’s a different experience than texting or emailing somebody. Everybody is taking the personal experience out of it. With the team, it’s critical they have that interaction.”
Graham said he is focused on “integrating technology with coaching football.” He said his goal is helping players without WiFi access gain access to information the coaches can send. He said he is hopeful an arrangement eventually can be worked out where each player will have access to a tablet.
“They can carry it with them,” Graham said. “We can send them opponents’ video, send installations, playbook material. Not only will it make them better in football, it’ll make them better in the classroom. It’ll be a note-taking device they can use, and basically organize all their academics.”
Graham said videos are being prepared for the players, packages that will include plays, snippets of several schemes the Warriors might employ this coming season, and meetings they planned to have during spring training.
By the end of April, Graham said, videos and meetings through Zoom will help the players know the terminology and plays despite not having any practices.
Graham also said his staff has set a timetable for preparing for 2020 opponents. By the end of April, there will be scouting reports and analysis of the first five opponents. Reports on the next four opponents will be ready in May, and of the final four regular-season opponents in June.
“In July, we’ll spend (it) really tweaking and working on game plans and fall camp,” Graham said.
As for making up for the missed spring practice, Graham said, “I’m hoping the NCAA will come back and maybe we can report early or get some of those workouts back. It’s really difficult when you’re a new staff, and not having spring ball and not having a workout, not being in the weight room, not training, not seeing them every day. When you’re new, it kind of accentuates the problem. That’s why we look at it as an opportunity. We don’t have problems. We have opportunities.”
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