A quick Q&A with CVU football head coach Rahn Fleming

Sports

Second-year coach gives his thoughts on upcoming 7-v-7 football season

Q: How do you feel about the way linemen are affected by the rule change?

A: The 7-v-7 format affects linemen in particular, to be sure. Especially those who were planning to build a highlight film this year for colleges to look at. What they’ll be doing in a 7-v-7 format is distinctly different than what they’d want to send along to their potential collegiate coaches. That is, of course, true for all our ‘ballers. But I think particularly for linemen.
That said, and with a smile in my voice, I find our linemen at CVU are responding quite positively to the opportunity to play WR and RB. Heck, we’ve got one 240 pounder (Isaac Bergeron) who can chuck the ball 40-50 yards on a dime (he drills with our QB’s)!! Our plan, like many schools, is to use our 3rd-4th QB’s during the “Bigs” quarters, just to give them reps at reading and recognizing defenses and coverages, making smart choices, and getting the ball off. But every game, we’ll be  looking for a chance to let Isaac run the offense for a series, or two, or three.
Too, many of our “Bigs” are embracing this as their opportunity to reveal their too long, too deeply, hidden identities as wide receivers!!  😉  I absolutely love watching ’em run patterns and pull down balls. It’s a sort of ballistic ballet, Baloo-the-Bear meets Barishnakov, you might say. And they are having a blast!!

Q: What do you feel like the biggest benefit to 7-v-7 football is?

A: In the biggest of pictures, the benefit of 7-v-7 football is that we’re playing, brother. 
For all of the (very reasonable and appropriate from their perspective) angst expressed by so many about format, postseason, championship, etc… Getting to play is better than not getting to play. Is it “real football”??  Heck no. But it is our real football this year. And we are the real representatives of our school on that gridiron. And we intend to really compete. And to really improve. And to really succeed. And to really enjoy the heck out of each other while we’re doing it… 
COVID has fundamentally altered everything. For some, in tragically mortal fashion. We are blessed to get to play this game. Now it’s ours to “color inside the lines” by taking all possible precautionary measures to insure/secure as much of a season as we can for as many student-athletes throughout the state as we can. 
My best understanding is that the state of Vermont, the upper echelon of the powers-that-be, started with “NO” regarding football at all. Please be sure to express my gratitude to the VPA, VIFL, Sean Farrell, Mike Norman, et al for their tireless preparation and tenacious efforts to create a football season for our student-athletes.   
Biggest Picture Biggest Benefits?  We’re giving our kids back the experience of importance of team; the social-emotional benefits of belonging, of shared purpose, shared endeavor, shared accomplishment; the ability and freedom to play. Just to get outside, within the structure of a sport, and get their yah-yahs out, ya know? ..Particularly for those multi-sport athletes who lost last Spring entirely, this is just so important…  
Football happens to be the mechanism for the 60-70 kids who are part of the CVU program to experience those things. No more or less than x-country, soccer, field hockey, or volley ball. It’s just so important that we give our all our kids this outlet after months of sequestered seclusion c/o COVID.

Q: How has your coaching philosophy changed to adapt to the changes in what practice is designed to do?

A: My — and my staff’s — coaching philosophy hasn’t changed a lick in this regard: we aim to give every one of our athletes every chance we can to get better every day. And to shine at least once per practice. That’s it.  “Always proud. Never Satisfied.”  and “Cultivate the urgent desire to be perfect.”  Now, everybody knows ain’t none of us ever going to be perfect, so the immediate corollaries truly become, “The journey is the thing” and “Let your mistakes be your teachers, not your enemies.” 
We’re structuring our practices to make us competitive in a 7-v-7 season, to be sure. But we’re also going to dedicate time every day to “the rest of the game.”  Which, really, is the run game — both executing ours and defending against our opponents. Doing this is our way of reminding our players that this COVID moment is not going to last forever. And, when it passes, we’re gonna be ready.

Q: Did your team have any organized practices during the offseason?

A: We were fortunate to have access to our facilities — and to one another — on a fairly regular basis over the summer.
We organized strength training in safe-pods of 10 athletes. Our athletes worked with dedicated partners, and spotters always wore masks. We were fanatical about distancing at all times, and equally so about wiping down the equipment between users.
Now, to get everyone who wanted to train into the Fitness Center, we ran five (5) one hour sessions on M, W, F.  7-8, 8-9, 9-10 am and 6-7, 7-8 pm.  And, yes, on some days we had all 50 show up!  There is no way on God’s Green Earth I could ever express my gratitude to the fathers who volunteered their time to help make this happen. Two of ’em (and myself) were here for every session all summer long.  And then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we got up onto the field for speed/agility/conditioning … again, providing our students with access to one another, a sense of purpose, endeavor and achievement, and — maybe most importantly — of belonging.

Q: Did Henry Kramer consult you at all before creating the petition to play full-contact football this fall?

A: In my opinion, Henry Kramer did that petition project the right way, from top to bottom. He came to me and let me know what his intention was before he launched. Didn’t ask permission, mind you. But did engage in the kind of conversation where I absolutely would have given it if he had. And I gave him my blessing from the git. 
Within the construct of a football team, of learning skills and techniques and preparing for competition, we expect/require a lot of acceptance and trust from our players. There’s not always time to explain the why, certainly not to debate the efficacy of what we’re trying to teach ’em… 
But this was different. This was about a kid defining, communicating, and advocating for what he believes in. Declaring what is important to him and why. It was a chance to support a thoughtful, well-spoken young man in finding and using his voice. Not to take away from Henry’s football abilities in the least, but by and large, it’s much more likely our Vermont ballplayers are going to end up in an NFL front office than on an NFL gridiron. This was a chance to support Henry in developing skills that are going to serve him in any arena for the rest of his life. And, frankly?  I think that Henry did himself, his family, our team and our school, proud.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending