The DC Defenders had a perfect 3-0 home record with eyes set on winning the championship when the COVID-19 coronavirus put their season on hold.
But the eventual reality we are all too familiar with finally came: Season canceled.
Defenders coach Pep Hamilton said it wasn’t just missing out on a title that disappointed him, but for his players that were hoping to be picked up by an NFL team.
A few did find NFL homes. For the others, it’s about staying in football shape. Hamilton stresses to his players they never know when the call could come, so they must be ready and a good routine is key.
“We help them structure their weeks and their days,” Hamilton said.
But with no access to a full gym, the training staff has to get creative so that work can be done from home. They’ve given Defenders players total body workouts, manual resistance, high-repetition work. Every detail matters.
Hamilton said when the coronavirus pandemic began he talked to his players about the importance of staying together and focusing on football, to stay in the moment amidst all the craze.
Many moments have come since then. The XFL says it plans to come back for 2021, but of course Hamilton understands it’s more than that.
“The biggest challenge is the uncertainty of when we get back to normalcy in our society and everybody be able to get back to work and the kids will be able to get back to school,” Hamilton said.
He is plenty busy right now. His three kids are in grade school and the educating is being done at home now.
“My wife and I, we’re home-schooling the kids and I teach PE and I’m the history teacher,” Hamilton said.
Wait, PE we get. But history? What history is that?
“Recent history, my history,” Hamilton said. “A lot of DC history, a lot of Howard history.”
Hamilton played quarterback at Howard, of course, and it’s where his coaching career began before heading to the NFL as an assistant coach for the Jets, 49ers, Bears, Colts, and Browns. He also spent time at Stanford and Michigan (with Redskins new offensive coordinator Scott Turner) before taking on his first head coaching job with the Defenders.
Hamilton’s role as a full-time home-schooling dad is relatively new.
“I hadn’t had a lot of time to spend with my kids during football season,” Hamilton said. “Over the years, I’ve typically left to go to work before they get up and I don’t get back home until they are sound asleep. So they tell me that I am like Major Payne around the household.”
It’s a joke, of course, but the reality is we don’t know when we can go back to work. What we do know is that when the time comes, you’ll no longer have to drag your kids out of bed, or dread setting your alarm for the office, or want to skip that workout. Perspective is powerful. And while Hamilton says his kids would still prefer to sleep past noon, that only happens a few days a week their household.
“It’s our goal to keep some structure in their lives to create a routine that is not stressful for the kids and our family,” Hamilton said. “Everyone is carrying a bit more stress right now just because of the harsh transition in our lifestyle and so we’ve found ways to incorporate our family time with the structured time that we feel like will allow our kids to enjoy their lives.”
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