Fan Controlled Football’s inaugural season is set to kick off next month. Players, coaches and executives alike have all been assigned with the task of heading to a “bubble” located in Atlanta, Georgia. This bubble houses over one hundred players and will be a “one stop shop” for the entire league during the year. Here’s some background on the Bubble in Atlanta, with the help former USF, Tennessee Martin, and current FCF Linebacker Cecil Cherry.
All parties began to arrive in Atlanta and enter quarantine back on January 11th. Each player needed to submit a negative COVID-19 test via FedEx prior to entering the Bubble. Another test was administered upon arrival, and that too needed to be negative. Cherry mentioned that all players quarantined for one week before any football related activities could take place. All parties are tested daily, and, anyone who tests negative goes into quarantine immediately. Proper contact tracing methods are in place, including devices used to tell who has been in close contact with who. Should a positive case come about, the FCF is fully equipped to handle it.
The executives at the FCF devised a plan to have groups of 4, or “pods” for players. These pods consisted of players from the same skill position, with masks worn at all times. These pods conduct essentially everything together, meals and all. Cherry says about the pods and the structure of the FCF protocols in general [I] “give them props”. Having a sound plan in place to combat the global pandemic we are in looks to have been a top priority for Fan Controlled Football.
On a broader spectrum, it seems the players are enjoying the Bubble. Food and lodging are both key components when over one hundred players are in a centralized location. I asked Cherry how the Bubble has been and he responded just as you’d expect. “They are feeding us the right things”. Cherry mentioned that nutrition is important for these players during practices and off-field work throughout the course of the day. Regarding the safety protocols in place, Cherry also mentions “We are not trying to go outside of the rooms”. The players have also bought in to the idea of property social distancing and mask usage whenever possible.
Learning new schemes with new coaches can surely be a difficult thing to do. The FCF has charged full steam ahead into the off-field or “classroom” sessions. For the Offense, they learn a variation of the “Run and Shoot”, as coached by John Jenkins. Jenkins was the University of Houston’s head coach from 1990-1992, and has also been an offensive coordinator in the CFL. On the defensive side of the ball, players are led by Coach Kahlil Carter. Carter is a former NFL and CFL player, as well as a coach on the Arena and CFL circuit.
Leading the set of veteran coaches is former CIFL and Duquesne head coach Shawn Liotta. His role as the Director of Coaching for the FCF plays a crucial part in the success of all it’s players. Cherry held the coaches in high regard saying “They coach us hard”. This is exactly what you want to hear when it comes to professional football. A developmental league that pushes it’s players and seeks the best results from each individual. The Frostproof, Florida native, Cherry once drove eighteen hours to Pittsburgh to prove to Coach Jenkins how much he wanted a shot at professional football. This is just one instance of players going the extra mile to earn an opportunity.
Other notable coaches in the Bubble include: Former college and NFL coach Howard Tippett, Former NFL and CFL player Chase Baker, Former NFL position coaches such as Carl Hargrave, Ivy Williams and Robert Ford, and former XFL assistant coach AJ Smith.
FCF Linebacker Cecil Cherry on the coaching in the Bubble:
“…The system the defensive staff [has] put together [is] to make us play fast and have fun. One thing about the defensive coaching staff, they teach you every step and we all have to be on the same page. We all correct each other and learn everyday and come to work to get bigger. We are bless[ed] to have all these [veteran] NFL staff [to] help us push our career[s] and teach us more knowledge of the game. This is a great experience and we really enjoy it because all [of] our coaches [are] ready and have us ready to [complete] the mission because we work on every detail of the game to be in the best position to win the game and also make plays”
So, what about practice? Practice takes place about ten minutes away from the hotel. Players are bussed over and they begin work right away. Having two sessions a day, players are in the thick of the learning process as the season inches closer. Players must take what they’ve learned in the classroom, and apply it out on the field. Cherry, the Coahoma JUCO product, mentions that “They do everything professional” when it comes to practice as a whole. Masks are worn whenever possible, and the pods essentially stick together, even during practice sessions. Cherry gave more praise about the coaching overall, as he mentions the coaches have said “We love you, but, we’re gonna coach you”. As a player, what more could you ask for from a coach and organization? The ability to learn from veteran coaches, and the piece of mind knowing that you can rely on these coaches for advice and wisdom during your time at the FCF.
As the Coronavirus has halted many professional sports leagues, and Bubbles become more frequent, Fan Controlled Football has created a beacon of light and guidance. The league is set to become the most innovative, fan friendly league to every exist. When it comes to the bubble, they are just as innovative. Daily testing, pods, virtual reality workouts, and much more. Having a solid backing from a startup league is something all players are seeking. Though it will be Fan Controlled Football’s first season, surrounding these players with veteran leadership both on and off the field is paramount to their success.