Whittier football players wait patiently on the sidelines
WHITTIER — Football. What about football these days? No, it’s not in season, but all levels from professional, college and down to high school are all on their own and in a holding pattern.
Spring practice, in fact, should be starting right about now for high schools for the month of May, ending with their annual spring games.
However, the only practice that’s going on is in backyards, garages with personal gyms and a lonely runner on a hill or wherever they can keep up their cardio.
With the NFL Draft just concluded last week, teams have been at the mercy of electronic viewing of college players and film from last season.
What about high school?
All three Whittier area teams – Cal High, Whittier and La Serna – haven’t seen any players on their fields or in the weight rooms since early March.
La Serna had one of its most successful and dominating seasons in 2019, falling just short of a CIF-Southern Section title. They should be gearing up for another run at a title, along with Cal and Whittier planning for the upcoming season and Del Rio League action. But instead, it’s all up to each player to get in shape on his own, with help from each of their coaches through social media.
All three head coaches – Andy George (La Serna), Visko Ancich (Whittier) and Louie Zamora (Cal) – have been in contact with their players through various means during the last few weeks.
George sent out a video recently to the players that the coaching staff was there for the players.
He said: “[The] whole coaching staff is still here for you during this time. I know it’s a rough time. Always fall back to the courage, character and commitment. We have to have the courage to face this thing head on. The character to do the right thing of what’s asked of us and the commitment to see it through. Stick to your body weight routine, stay busy, stay positive and we’re here for you. Let us know if you need anything and stay safe and so long Lancer family and we’ll see you soon.”
George, and his wife, Jenna, an English teacher at La Serna, have three young girls – Kinsley, 4, Camdyn, 2 and Chandler, 8 months – had Kinsley on his knee for the home-made video. Coach George is planning his second video next week, with maybe Camdyn making her debut on screen. Chandler was named after George’s uncle, Bob Chandler, who was a wide receiver and played at USC and in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Oakland/L.A. Raiders. Chandler graduated from Whittier High.
“I’m trying to take a hands-off approach to stay safe and not add any stress for their mental well being,” George added. “There will be plenty of time for football in the fall.”
With a good part of players not having equipment at home, the Lancer football staff is posting body weight routines and programs.
“We just want them to stay active, take a run, do some squats and stretching, etc.,” he said. “It’s a tough transition with online and distance learning. The atmosphere is to take care of them mentally.
“My plan is, as we get closer to May and June, to communicate even more. We’re going to be prepared no matter when we start. It’s a family thing for us.”
Ninth-year Whittier head football coach Visko Ancich has been using electronic communication with his players.
“For the players, we go through Google Classroom to install schemes and they get assignments for football and a worksheet and submit a video of them doing their workouts, push ups and so forth,” Ancich said.
“Because of Google Classroom, we are able to do all of the stuff that we need to. Workouts are designed by players according to their available equipment and some input from me.
“I might be getting the raw end of some of those push-ups, but we’re able at least to keep up with the kids on social media. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t replace in-person contact.”
Ancich, whose dad Marijon Ancich coached for many years and was a legend at St. Paul, knows that self-motivation is the best form.
Visko Ancich is a real family man, with four boys and a girl, Annika. The oldest boy, Joseph, is a senior and Visko and his wife, Michelle, are both teachers and are very aware of the landmark moments that will be missed this spring.
Joseph Ancich was a strong safety on the football team and will continue his education at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“I wish he could stay and coach,” said Visko, of Joseph. He has three other boys – Vincent (16), a 4.0 student and an incoming junior on the football team, Dominic, who will be an 8th grader and plays football and water polo, and nine-year-old Charlie. Charlie was named after Monsignor Charles Cranham, who was principal of St. Paul and hired Marijon Ancich as the football coach in 1958.
“I play catch with my sons and daughter,” Visko Ancich added. “I’ve been building a treehouse with my boys and cutting down trees on the hill on the property.” That hill has become one of their workout areas during the stay-at-home order for L.A.
Cal High second-year coach Louie Zamora recently sent out a reminder to the football parents and ended it with a statement that represents so many athletes everywhere these days.
“Use this time to reconnect with your families,” Zamora said. “Family is important. Invite them to work out with you. I miss you guys, see you soon.”
Zamora, 37, has been in contact with his players on an individual basis as needed and the following is part of his what he had to say to the athletes:
“Eat consistently, four to five times a day. Doing this will keep you in shape and you won’t get fat. Don’t overeat! Keep our normal eating routine from school. Continue to do our core workout, which should take 15-20 minutes. Start off by doing 20 of each. If that gets easy, bump it up to 25 each and so on.
“Keep stretching daily. Do our stretch routine we do before we go to the weight room. That should take another 10 min.
“Keep going through the motions of our lifts. Do air squats and work on going all the way down to keep range of motion. You can work the technique for clean, snatch, and snatch squat by using a broomstick. Working the technique will actually help you come back better.
“If allowed by your parents, go to the park and run. You can do our speed training workouts. Also, you can just run for 15-20 minutes a day as well. Just make sure you stay at least six feet from people.”
Zamora, who has coached at four different high schools since 2002, reminded his players that these routines were good even if they weren’t on dismissal.
“I email all of the parents and they love that I do it,” Zamora said. Zamora also sends out reminders of what the daily schedule is during the season.
“Coaching is the extension of the home,” he added. “Keep studying, keep the grades up and I talk to the players all of the time.
“I just want to win. This is more than just four years in high school… it’s a lifetime.”
He has established core workouts that are 20 minutes and reminds them to keep in contact with Hudl.
“Other than the workouts I send them, I want to make sure they get their workouts in,” Zamora said. “I’m in a position that I need kids on the field. I had about 130 kids in the program.
“I believe in old style – If you don’t do the right things at home, you won’t do the right things on the field. I want (players) to do the right things while on this break and this is the time to do what we’ve (coaches) been talking about. Anybody can be a knucklehead. It’s hard to be a leader, but it’s hard to be above that.”
What the players said:
Dylan Long, incoming senior quarterback at La Serna: “It was cool to see coach (George) and the video. Especially with family now, we’re together now and it’s amplified. It’s important in life.
“I’m in baseball and we lost a season along with football practice. But I get to work with my brothers (Grady, 6th grader, Owen, incoming freshman and Jake, sophomore) lifting weights.
“We workout at home on cardio, step ladders, jump rope and throw the ball around. I also hit into the net for baseball and run around the block. It’s weird not having the spring game. That game is a benchmark for the season.
“I also like to reach out to coach P (Perumean). Once we get back into this, the (football) program knows how to work.”
Note: Dylan was recently named team captain by the outgoing seniors.
Jake George, incoming junior wide receiver at La Serna: “It’s great to have down time with my family. Going on walks with my dad. It was cool to see our coaches are still there for us (via video). It gives us motivation. It was a neat video. It’s making me impatient and I’m staying up with my workouts.
“I hope to be ready for summer ball. This is going to test our football character and once practice starts, it’ll show who is ready.”
Vincent Ancich, incoming junior wide receiver and free safety at Whittier: “I’ve been going on runs, working out, doing yard work and anything to help around. You sweat a lot carrying things down the hill.”
Jacob Gonzalez, incoming wide receiver and defensive back at Whittier: “I’ve obviously been working out and watching film for receivers. Coach assigned player formations and I’ve also been watching YouTube videos on receivers. I’ve been looking at Google Classroom and assignment worksheets and playback of formations.
“My routine has been working on my stomach and legs, doing sets of jumping jacks, then squats, etc.
“I never thought that it would be this serious. I feel that our team would be responsible to work out on their own.
“I genuinely feel bad for all of the seniors. I’m on the senior event planning committee for the ASB for this year for the current seniors and we are still planning events in case they go on, such as the prom, senior breakfast, etc. We sent out emails to all of the seniors to raise their hopes for these events.”
Memo Tellechea, incoming senior and fullback, tight end and defensive end for Whittier: “For our workouts at home, we cleaned out our shed and built a couple of machines and have a weight bench. We have a big rope and a couple of clips on each end and put different weights on them.
“This (stay-at-home order) is just making us more responsible to get up and work. I’m looking to have a big senior season.
“We have the first install of plays to work on. It’s important to work on your mind and any other part of the body.
“I’m also in track and field and our season got cut short and I feel bad for them (seniors).
“We have been connecting with our coaches with Google Classroom. We’ve been making the best of it of course, every day.”