David Riddle has been coaching at Halifax County High School for 22 years.
He has been the boys tennis coach the entire time, the cross-country coach for 16 years and the wrestling coach for 14 years, with the last five as their head coach.
Riddle has seen a lot throughout his time, but the last seven months have truly been a first for him in his coaching career.
As it appears that high school sports’ practices will start back at Halifax County High School in the next couple of weeks, Riddle looked back at everything that has gone on since March while looking forward to what he hopes is a great season for his teams.
Back in March, Riddle was getting things together on a Thursday afternoon for his teams’ tennis scrimmage against Randolph Henry. Riddle was notified by Halifax County High School athletic director Allen Lawter that no scrimmages were taking place that day.
“I pretty much knew that it was a good chance we were not going to have a season. It was tough,” Riddle said. “Knowing the love that those guys have for the sport and knowing they couldn’t get out and play was difficult,” he added.
As time went on and the information from the schools and the state confirmed Riddle’s worst fears, he then had to find new ways to stay in contact with his teams and keep them on the track they need to be for when sports return.
He has stayed in contact with them and used Google Classroom to give them workouts to do.
“It is certainly not as good as face-to-face but many have corresponded with me and are doing the workouts to stay in shape,” Riddle said.
Riddle has had to deal with another big issue that comes with teammates and coaches being apart for so long and that is the bonds that they form. He says that the bonds that are formed between player and coach as well as the bond formed between teammates is something you cannot get unless you are on the field together.
“Coaching three sports for as long as I have you sort of have a daily routine set and for me that has been thrown out of sorts. I am used to the 3:15 p.m. bell sounding and sports begin. That isn’t there now and it has been tough,” Riddle said.
The Virginia High School League recently announced a revised schedule for the 2020-2021 school year that has each sport playing 60% of their normal schedule. It also switches the start dates around for each sport and will be a much different look when things get going in December. As a coach of three sports, Riddle has to find ways to get the most out of his kids in that short amount of time for optimal results.
“I think the focus, as always, will be on making sure that they each succeed and getting the best out of them. But just the getting back to normal (as much as we possibly can) and for them to enjoy and live in the moment and have something they will remember is important as well,” he said. “Of course we want to win, but having lost last year in the spring I don’t want another senior to lose out on that last chance to compete as a Blue Comet.”
Riddle says that the shortened season is not ideal, but after watching his boys tennis team compete in only one scrimmage, and seeing the strength of that team and then not having them compete was heartbreaking for him to see. “They put so much into it, especially the seniors. I want this years seniors and the entire group to be able to do what they love,” he said.
One thing that Riddle also has to think about is the possibility of postponements and cancelations. Riddle doesn’t want to even think about that possibility, but he has prepared himself mentally.
“I want these students to be able to compete, but safety has to be a priority. If it is deemed unsafe to compete, as much as I would hate that, I would also be risking their health as well,” he said.
One of the first sports to return in December is Riddle’s wrestling team. Returning to the mat this season is Alex Driggs who made it to the state tournament last year. Riddle has been in contact with Driggs, who is looking to make a return trip to the state tournament and win a state title for Halifax County High School.
“Driggs is one of the more disciplined athletes that I have been around. He has a strong focus and work ethic and he has been working out the entire time that we have been out,” Riddle said. “With a sport like wrestling the short season could possibly be a benefit for the wear and tear that an entire season takes on them, but less mat time could be a hindrance as well. But I feel his discipline will be a huge factor towards his success this season,” he added.
As Riddle looks back on his 22 year coaching career, he remember the trips to the state tournament for wrestling and tennis and the moments that they secured their spots to the state tournaments. “Those moments are priceless,” Riddle said.
“But there are so many memories of each squad in every sport. Individual moments both in practice and in events that I pretty much think of every day. I have photos of my teams throughout the years on the wall in my classroom so it is pretty much on a daily basis that I think of stories that sometimes make me shake my head and sometimes grimace, but for the most part they usually put a smile on my face.”