It's Charlie Flohr's first year as the South Dakota School of Mines head football coach and ... he's not in Rapid City.
Flohr, like all Mines faculty, students and coaches, aren't on campus these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, and he's not even in town. Back in Maryville, Mo., during spring break where he was an assistant coach at Northwest Missouri State for 14 years, he was working to get his house sold, and the Mines shutdown came.
He's been there ever since and will be there until the shutdown ends.
Still, it's business as (un)usual for the veteran college football coach as he begins his first season as a head coach with the Hardrockers.
All of spring football coaching is done via electronics these days.
"It's been a challenge in regards to trying to get our program established without having spring football practice, there's no doubt," Flohr said Friday in a phone interview with the Journal. "Our staff has done a very good job of getting the electric items we are able to use via email, Google Classroom and Zoom. We're getting everything that we need so we can still go about our spring ball, just like where we would be on the field."
It's Flohr's and his staff's goal to do everything they normally would do in spring practices, except the actual physical practice. That will have to wait until fall drills begin.
The Mines coaches put everything possible online, including the playbook, and what they are looking to install on offense, defense and special teams.
Just like a normal spring season.
"They look through it and continue to learn what we're doing from a football standpoint," he said.
Much of what they are doing at this time is to get the players to understand their system. Flohr said obviously they would love to see them get into the physical side of things and actually run the plays, but he added that when you really break down football and sports in general, a lot of it is what you know and how you go about in certain situations.
"We want to make sure the kids have our information, whether it is online or in meetings," Flohr said. "Our kids are in the same situation as everybody else in the country right now. They're having to learn some schemes that are a little bit different from what they've known, but our kids have been very receptive to everything that we've been able to do with them.
"They're getting used to the new normal right now like everybody in the country and in the world."
As a head coach, Flohr said he tries to meet with every position group once a week so those players can see him and ask him questions.
He said he is there for their mental health — checking in and seeing how they are doing. For Flohr, it is important when establishing a program to get to understand and know the players and what they are going through.
Everyone, he adds, is going through the same situation together.
"It's new for me and it is new for them," he said. "I want to make sure we get through this together; we're all talking to one another and we're all communicating, and we're all asking questions."
The Hardrocker position coaches also check in frequently with the players to continue to build relationships on the football side as well as on the personal side.
Much of that, Flohr adds, is for the student-athletes to know that they still have a job to do, which is going to class every day online. He said they are making sure they are taking care of their academics, something they would do if it was a normal football situation.
As a staff, the Mines coaches get about eight hours a week with the players for their meetings. Each coach is meeting electronically once a day, every other day, via email, text or by Zoom.
Those guidelines were set by the NCAA and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The coaches will continue this process until May 31. Flohr said they are trying to give the players those hours, spreading it out through the same period that they would have going through spring ball
"They have been very good about the guidelines and what we can and can't do," Flohr said. "We're just trying to check in to see how they are doing mentally, as well as physically."
If things begin to settle down and the coaches and players can get back to normal, the next and first time the team will be able to meet in full for physical workouts would be when fall drills begin in August.
At this time a lot of the summer plans are still unknown, although Flohr said that South Dakota Mines has done a good job of taking care of the students, faculty and staff for the well-being of their health.
"Stuff is coming out daily in regards of what is going to go on in the future," he said. "We're just trying to prepare ourselves for that on a day-to-day basis. Once we get final approval in regards to when we will start, what options we have, then we'll be prepared for that plan."
When fall drills come around, the players and coaches will be fired up for sure, Flohr said.
He's looking forward to that day, to say the least.
"That's the thing I keep reiterating to our football team via email, is how excited I am going to be for that first practice, whenever it is, and that we're going to be on the field together," he said. "We can enjoy it and celebrate it. It is going to be a great time when everybody gets back to that normal life that we all want to have."
Flohr said he believes this is one thing that has made everybody sit back and think about everything they have and not take anything for granted.
"We just need to continue to control the controlables and go about everyday life with a great attitude and a great spirit, and enjoy your loved ones around you," he said.
As is the case with spring ball, the Hardrocker coaches are also forced to recruit online, by text or by social media. There's no personal contact with potential recruits on campus or off campus.
Again, the optimistic Flohr said things are still going well in that regards.
"We're trying to do a lot of this virtually in regards to sharing information about our program and what we're doing over those resources," he said. "Our staff has done a really good job of continuing to reach out to the recruits for the '21 class, just trying to get them as much information about our program, and what we want to establish moving forward."
As far as the 2020 recruiting class, Flohr said they have received some more commitments from players to add to the February signing-day total as they have extended their recruiting class to 25 players.
"We're looking for a few more spots to fill the needs that we feel we have within our program," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll get a few more commitments."
A little family time
Despite all that has happened, with Flohr being in Missouri, he has been able to combine the virtual coaching and work with some added time with his family, which includes his wife, Amy, and their three boys.
"It's been good. We've been able to kind of catch up with the month-and-a-half that I was away from them, being in Rapid City when they were still in Maryville," he said.
A Gillette, Wyo., native, he said they are looking forward to making their move as a family to Rapid City to be closer to family when the time comes.
"It's one of those things that you have to continue to keep praying that everything is going to pan out for the best," he said. "When we get the final okay to move and get everything ready to go, we're excited to get the whole family to move to Rapid."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!