Staying in the game: Online football clinics prove to be a hit for South Dakota prep coaches

With South Dakotans asked to self-isolate at home, the state's football coaches have taken advantage, holding nightly webinar sessions on the tactics and strategies of the game at all levels. (Republic file photo)

SIOUX FALLS -- The coronavirus has not stopped South Dakota high school football coaches from picking up some new tricks.

When the annual South Dakota Football Coaches Association Clinic -- originally slated for March 20-21 in Vermillion -- was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a few coaches decided to get creative and came up with an online clinic.

They just did not expect it to go viral.

Sioux Falls Washington coaches Chad Stadem and Ryan Evans, Brandon Valley assistant coach Matt Christensen, Sioux Valley coach Dan Hughes and Elk Point-Jefferson coach Jacob Terry originally planned to have an online clinic with a different presentation each Sunday, but it has quickly turned into a 90-minute session Sunday through Thursdays on Zoom.

Coaches from South Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina and even Germany have tuned in to what has been dubbed “SoDak Sessions” for tips from the likes of South Dakota State University offensive coordinator Jason Eck, Chadron State head coach Jay Long and Coronado High School (San Diego, California) coach Kurt Hines.


“We were just calling it ‘SoDak Boys’ in the beginning and just getting a bunch of South Dakota guys to talk football and it’s really taken off,” said Stadem, who has been Washington’s head coach since 2013. “We let the coaches go on and we’re pretty much around 90-100 guys every night.”

Originally thought to be small gatherings of around 15 coaches, the nightly clinics have exploded during the last few weeks as word has passed through social media outlets.

As many as 130 coaches logged in to learn free drills from eight-year NFL veteran and current University of Nebraska linebackers coach Barrett Ruud through video clips and PowerPoint slides.

“It’s kind of like that movie Old School and all these guys want to get into their fraternity,” Stadem said. “... It’s about getting guys during a tough time, talking football and getting away for about an hour and then getting back to reality.”

Starting Sunday, the clinics will be trimmed to three nights per week through April, back to just Sunday nights in May before taking a break during the summer when fall practice is scheduled to begin.

Stadem, Evans, Christensen, Hughes and Terry have attempted to find presenters with a message that applies to all programs, regardless of population size, 11-man or nine-man schemes.

“We didn’t want to have it just for certain coaches,” said Evans, who served as head coach of McCook Central/Montrose from 2009-2018. “A coach’s goal is, if you can leave a clinic with one idea to bring back to your kids as an option, then the clinic is worth it. We thought, ‘Let’s try to have the same principle for the live clinics.’ All coaches can take something away.”

While the online sessions are providing an adequate replacement for coaches that would typically attend a variety of clinics during the spring, it also serves as a new option for some coaches that cannot attend clinics due to spring-sport coaching duties or monetary limitations.


“It’s giving them a resource that’s free,” Stadem said. “They can be in their hometown and they can hear a good clinic. You don’t get to hear Barrett Ruud talk drills very often. Not many guys have that opportunity like guys at bigger schools do.”

If coronavirus restrictions extend into the summer, it has also opened an option to review schemes and assignments with players without having in-person contact.

Evans stated Washington coaches have already held Zoom meetings with players to ensure they are keeping up with home workouts and schoolwork. After sitting in on the sessions, Bon Homme head coach Byron Pudwill also said it may be an option for his team in the future.

“I can’t believe how much I’ve learned already,” Pudwill said. “It’s really keeping me fired up and motivated. … The technology overwhelms me sometimes.”

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