BILL ZWAAN DEALS WITH FRUSTRATING NCAA GUIDELINES REGARDING COVID-19 AND COMMUNICATING WITH PLAYERS
West Chester's long-time head football coach not only has a solid roster returning, he is also on the verge of several career milestones of his own
As we all deal with COVID-19, many are making plans for when things get “back to normal.” This includes football players and coaches, who would be into preparation for the coming season anyway. Recently, West Chester University head coach Bill Zwaan was a guest on the FootballStories Facebook Live show to discuss where things stand with the Golden Rams program.
“Our biggest thing,” said Zwaan, who will coaching his 18th season at West Chester this fall, “is making sure out kids handle the academic situations they’re in, most of the guys are doing fine but we have kids who didn’t have laptops so they had to get laptops from the school and they don’t have wi-fi in their homes so the school got them hotspots in order to do their work.
For most of our kids, it’s just an easy adjustment but for a few of them it’s a major adjustment. From a coach’s standpoint, we want to make sure everybody does what they’re supposed to academically and be eligible for the fall no matter what happens.”
To compound matters, Zwaan said a few players needed to go to work to help with strained financial situations at home while still needing to do their course work.
While mentioning how unfortunate it was – especially for the seniors – that the spring sports teams lost their season. Zwaan said the football team just had spring practice curtailed, while they couldn’t actually practice, they were able to do film work and other classroom-type things they would typically do during the spring.
“We learned how to do a Zoom meeting really quickly,” he said while inciting laughter from show co-hosts Al Thompson and Matt Santoleri, “which I had never done ever in my life.”
Changing on the fly is something Zwaan is used to.
“The one thing you do at Division II and Division III, which is where I’ve been most of my life, you adjust. Things happen all the time. It’s not like Division I where you can simply write a check and cover things, you figure out a way to make things work the way you need them to work. As soon as all this stuff happened, we sat down as a staff and said, ‘what are the adjustments we need to make?’ ‘Let’s make sure we’re talking to the kids and they have what they need.’”
A problem that Zwaan and all lower division coaches have run into is the NCAA. Normally, coaches are not allowed to have meetings with the team once spring football ends until the start of pre-season training camp in August. That is still the case except at the Division I level where coaching staffs can still have those meetings.
“Right now, they haven’t relaxed that particular rule,” said Zwaan, who has led teams to the NCAA Playoffs in 12 of the 23 seasons he’s been a head coach, “hopefully, they will. Sometimes the NCAA does what’s right for the kids and sometimes the NCAA doesn’t.”
This could be a big season for the Golden Rams – if it happens and Zwaan is confident it will although he feels it might be shortened or start later – they return a lot of talent from a team that went to the playoffs last season.
“Being as competitive as we’ve been over the years,” said Zwaan, who was head coach at Widener for six seasons before he moved to West Chester, “everybody wants to be a part of that. So, our kids are working harder now because they don’t want to miss out on what they see could be a pretty good season.”
Zwaan could reach a couple of personal milestones, in all he’s won 198 games as a head coach and he needs four wins to pass Glenn Killinger to become the all-time winningest head coach at West Chester.
“That’s in the back of my mind, there’s no question about that,” said Zwaan, who has won 144 games as Golden Rams head coach. “I just hope we have a season.”
As do we all, coach.
Email Rock Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org