Clarksville Acad. at Columbia Acad., 6:30 p.m.
Richland at Zion Chr., 6:30 p.m.
Columbia Acad. at St. Rose, 6 p.m.
Bridgeforth at Spring Hill, 6:30 p.m.
Richland at Mt. Pleasant, 6:30 p.m.
Schedules subject to change. Please submit updated schedules and game results to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chris Yow
MT. PLEASANT — Amidst a pandemic where college coaches are forced to recruit through the internet, there has never been a more critical time for high school athletes to make the best impression possible online.
Mt. Pleasant football coach Bronson Bradley has preached that importance for several years, but in 2020 the Tigers have taken a more dedicated approach to helping their kids create the best possible image on social media and e-mail with the hiring of assistant coach Terrell Jackson.
Jackson, who has a pair of sons who have gone on to play at the collegiate level, has been through the recruiting process, and he believes that makes him uniquely qualified to help Mt. Pleasant athletes succeed in that aspect.
“I have seven kids of my own, and two that play college football,” Jackson said. “I told them that once you step into high school football, if you want to get to the next level, it’s a business. Your job is to play football debt-free, and this is one of the biggest things that can mess you up. Grades are first, social media is second, the football field will take care of itself.”
The importance of that online presence is vital to the recruiting process.
“The first thing a recruiter is going to look at is your social media presence. What I try to get these kids to understand is your first impression is your best impression,” he said. “Not only do these coaches care about your social media, they care about what you like, what you repost and who your friends are. It’s the most important part of the process for a lot of kids.”
For many college coaches, social media can completely affect the recruitment of an athlete. Former SMU coach Van Malone posted to his Twitter account as far back as 2015 how social media negatively impacted players the school was actively recruiting.
“We have a team of people who monitor what recruits are putting on social media. Watch what you tweet and retweet,” Malone wrote.
There have been a number of examples of recruits having scholarships pulled due to issues on social media. Former Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep defensive back Yuri Wright, who was ranked as the No. 40 player in the 2012 class, had double-digit scholarship offers but was dropped by almost every team showing interest after being expelled for sexually graphic and racial Twitter posts.
Bradley said Jackson makes sure the players have the right profile pictures on social media and their Hudl accounts, professional usernames and e-mail addresses, among other necessities such as NCAA eligibility and ACT requirements.
“(Jackson) gives them homework assignments to make sure they’ve signed up for all of the things college coaches look at when they’re looking for players,” Bradley said. “He’s done a great job running with this assignment, and it’s a totally different atmosphere online with our kids now.”
A resident of Clarksville, Jackson makes the trek to Mt. Pleasant every day to coach wide receivers and defensive backs in addition to his social media duties. What he’s found in the small school is a culture of respect, and that keeps him excited to come to work every day despite the travel.
“These kids are all, ‘Yes, sir’, ‘No, sir’ all the time,” he said. “They are very coachable, and that’s a testament to the job Coach Bradley has done here with these kids. When I asked them to do something, they didn’t question it.”
Stepping into the role of wide receivers and defensive backs coach, Jackson is working with a group of very young players that includes just one junior. The majority of the skill players in his group are underclassmen, but he is proud of the work they have done to this point, and complimented, again, their coachability.
“Every day these kids come to work and get better,” he said. “They don’t have any reservations and they take what I teach them and put it into action.”
Jackson’s presence both on the field and in the social media arena has been a weight off Bradley’s shoulders, and he is grateful for the insight and the help.
“We are excited to have (Jackson) here, and we are really blessed to have the knowledge and expertise he brings to our staff,” Bradley said. “I had to juggle that stuff with everything else for a long time, but with his help, I don’t have to worry about it. I know our kids are going to put their best image forward.”
By Maurice Patton
Citing travel and scheduling concerns, Columbia Academy officials are expected to present a proposal to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association that would divide Division II-A into three regions for football, beginning with the 2021 season.
With the TSSAA Board of Control’s regularly scheduled June meeting postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the proposal would likely be submitted for the board’s consideration during a classification study session in late July.
Currently, DII-A consists of 18 programs in two regions – East and West – with Columbia Academy making trips during a two-year scheduling cycle to University School of Jackson (118 miles), Trinity Christian (119) and Jackson Christian (115), as well as Fayette Academy in Somerville (161) and Tipton-Rosemark in Millington (182).
The region also includes Clarksville Academy, Davidson Academy, Nashville Christian and Zion Christian, although Zion did not play a region schedule in 2019 and is not expected to this season.
Under the three-region configuration, CA would play in the Middle Region with holdovers Clarksville Academy, Davidson and Nashville Christian, along with Donelson Christian and Franklin’s Grace Christian, both of which are currently in the East Region.
The grouping would provide relief for the Bulldogs, and most of the DII-A programs, in terms of travel distances and scheduling flexibility.
“We should be able to play some closer games, some ‘rivalry’ games,” CA athletics director Pernell Knox said. “Some (officials at other schools) like the travel change, but they don’t necessarily like the makeup of the regions. It doesn’t necessarily cut down on travel for everybody.
“Some coaches don’t know if they can schedule four or five (non-region) games.”
Across the board in Division II-A, travel would be reduced for 14 of the 18 programs – by more than half in the majority of those cases.
“We haven’t gotten any feedback (on the proposal),” CA coach Charlie Lansdell said. “We met with the coaches at the region meeting. The only negative seems to be trying to find non-region games, the difficulty of finding non-region games.”
Last fall, facing a schedule with eight games in league play, Columbia Academy opened against Class 4A power Marshall County and followed with a trip to Class 5A stalwart Shelbyville.
“We don’t mind playing them, but it’s going to take a whole lot of good for us to be able to win games like that,” Lansdell said. “We do want to try to get good non-region competition – good competition, good gates. We’re looking forward to seeing if we can make it happen. From a travel perspective, it would really help us out.”
The proposal allows for a five-team West Region (Fayette Academy, Jackson Christian, Tipton-Rosemark, Trinity Christian and University School of Jackson) and a six-team East Region (Friendship Christian, Chattanooga Grace, Middle Tennessee Christian, Mt. Juliet Christian, The King’s Academy and Webb-Bell Buckle).
“We’ve sent it out to a few coaches,” Knox said. “We want to send it out to some more coaches and ADs and let them review it before we submit it to the TSSAA.”