MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday night would’ve been Ryan Silverfield’s Memphis debut as Tigers head football coach. But, with the University of Memphis’ Annual Spring Game canceled thanks to the coronavirus, Silverfield, who coached the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl, is taking a different approach to football during this forced hiatus.
Making sure his players minds are just as strong as their bodies.
About 1/3 of the Memphis Tiger Football team are still in Memphis because it’s the safest place to be. Head coach Ryan Silverfield says his priority is checking in on his guys, because this is now real life, and in the grand scheme of things, football doesn’t really matter.
“Now it’s I feel like I spend half my time checking up on my guys,” said Silverfield. “So I could literally spend 8 hours and take 5 hours just checking on our current roster.”
Mental health has turned to the top priority for Silverfield, during what was supposed to be his first spring as head coach.
Silverfield says “Every day when we get a chance we try to check on our guys as often as possible and probably to the point where we probably annoy them, but we worry about their health. Every day when we talk to our guys whether it’s over text or FaceTime, it’s hey, how’s your family, how are you feeling is everything good?”
Silverfield and his staff encouraged players to go home if it’s safe. But he says for a lot of his players, Memphis is the best option.
“You worry about their welfare,” said Silverfield. “If they are home, or somebody is laid off in their family, their check may be going to help feed their little brother. And you say if this thing continues to go on, are they getting enough to eat, are they being able to provide toilet paper for their family? Those are all realities of it.”
Memphis provides one training table meal for lunch for those that are still in town and living in off-campus housing. It’s set up outside so there’s little to no interaction with the staff. Then it’s back home where life has turned into a lot of self-accountability.
Student-athletes still need to pass classes to be eligible and stay in shape for when things can start back up, giving Silverfield a new way to show his players, just how much he cares about them.
“It’s not my job for them to like me, but it’s my job for them to respect me and know that I have their best interest at heart and sometimes I have to be that stern father figure, their coach, their friend, their bigger brother, but you know this size eleven turned sideways can go wrap them on their rear ends pretty good if they aren’t being accountable to what they need to do,” he said.
Silverfield has encouraged his coaches to get creative with how they connect with the players. And a common misconception is that since there’s no practice, there’s more time.
Silverfield says it’s the exact opposite.
They’re zooming to watch film and have meetings. He also makes a plan every week assuming they’ll get to start. A lot of those plans have been thrown away, but he’ll keep doing it until they get the green light to go.