Virginia high school football players are experiencing the longest offseason they’ve ever had because of COVID-19.

Winchester’s FASST plans on making what local high school players hope will be the last two months of their offseason as informative and beneficial as possible.

Starting Dec. 6, FASST (Frisby’s Agility, Speed, Strength & Agility Training) will hold its 6th annual Football Academy over eight Sundays in December and January, which will lead into the Virginia High School League football season (the first official practice date is Feb. 4). The academy is for players age 14-18, with offense meeting all four Sundays in December and defense meeting the first four Sundays in January, concluding Jan. 24. The sessions will all take place from 6-8 p.m. at the Winchester Sportsplex.

This year’s edition is unique because of the experience level and credentials of the instructors. The seven position coaches feature three former professional players (two NFL, one Canadian Football League) and three people who played for Virginia Tech, Old Dominion and Clemson. The quarterbacks coach is Tyrone Crabb of the national QB Collective Academy.

Owner James Frisby said FASST has had strong local coaches who have worked in its football academy over the years. But FASST wanted to add some different perspectives to its instruction for this edition in what has been a trying year for high school athletes, who saw their usual fall season moved to February through April because of COVID-19.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID,” Frisby said. “But this just gives these guys an opportunity to prepare if they would have a season in February.”

As far as people with pro experience, the roster includes linebacker coach Ravin Caldwell, who played in 79 games (14 starts) in the NFL from 1987-93 and was on two Washington Football Team Super Bowl champions in 1987 and 1991; and defensive backs coach John Booty, who played in 102 games (37 starts) with five teams over eight years from 1988-95. Each of them used to coach FASST general manager Angela Orsini in the Legends Football League for women.

Offensive line coach Russ Bolden is a returning academy coach with pro experience in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. Bolden is a former Millbrook High School assistant coach who coaches offensive linemen at Riverside High School. He is the uncle of former Millbrook and James Madison University star offensive lineman A.J. Bolden.

From the college ranks, there are three players who recently contributed significantly to their programs: wide receiver coach Eric Kumah (Virginia Tech and Old Dominion from 2016-19, Forest Park High School graduate); running backs coach DeShawn McClease (Virginia Tech from 2015-19, Oscar Smith graduate); and defensive line coach Chad Smith (Clemson University 2015-19, Dominion graduate).

There will also be NCAA Division III coaches who will be in attendance to evaluate the athletes for at least one week of both the offensive and defensive programs. Frisby said event sponsor Taylor Loudan of PrimeLending in Winchester, a former Sherando and D-III Christopher Newport University football player, helped out with the D-III contacts, and FASST is hoping to add some Division II coaches as well.

Frisby is looking to have 8-12 players from each position group register (spots are already filling up). The cost for each four-week program is $300, and Frisby said registrants can talk to FASST about payment options.

“[The FASST staff] will warm the players up, we’ll put them through some type of speed sessions, then they’ll get with their position coaches and learn,” Frisby said. “You’ll learn your fundamental drills, but then you’ll also advance to more advanced technical drills. These [coaches] have played at the highest level, so they’ve probably seen it all at every level and every speed, so hopefully they can translate that information to our young kids and relate to every level of kid that’s attending the camp.”

Frisby said some of the local players with Division I talent have already committed to the academy, and they’ll get to learn from people who played at that level. But for players who won’t play at that level, Frisby hopes they can learn a lot and show the college coaches who are there as spectators what they can offer.

“These senior kids that didn’t get to go to college camps over the summer, didn’t get the exposure, didn’t get out there to play this fall, this gives them an opportunity to get looked at,” Frisby said.

“Most of our kids in this area, they do play at the Division III level. This is a good opportunity for them to get in front of a coach from Bridgewater, a coach from Christopher Newport, a coach from Shenandoah, a coach from Randolph-Macon. This is a really good opportunity, especially for our seniors and our rising juniors, with the way recruiting is going on right now.”

At the end of each session, there will be a different local high school coach each week who will discuss football, but also things like school, work ethic, and expectations. As of Wednesday, Frisby had lined up Sherando’s Bill Hall, Millbrook’s Josh Haymore, Handley’s Dan Jones and Skyline’s Heath Gilbert to serve as speakers. Other local high school coaches will be added once FASST works out the best date for them.

“We just want them to talk to the kids to keep them inspired,” Frisby said. “How to overcome what we’re going through, but still staying focused, and preparing in a safe way.”

Frisby said FASST is taking measures to make participating in the academy safe as far as COVID-19. FASST is sending out COVID-19 questionnaires prior to the start of the academy and taking temperatures upon entry. FASST neck gaiters will be provided for each participant. Face coverings will be required for all participants in the academy.

In addition, Loudan will provide all participants with a FASST sleeveless hoodie and a hospitality table for the athletes with water, Gatorade, protein shakes and bars for recovery. Loudan will also provide a hospitality room for the coaches.

To register, go to www.fasstraining.com.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.com

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