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Andy Guyader has been Cabrillo's football coach for months. He still hasn't been able to meet his players in person.

Andy Guyader has been Cabrillo's football coach for months. He still hasn't been able to meet his players in person.

Andy Guyader has spent months preparing for his first season as the head coach of Cabrillo High's football team.

He's devoted many hours to preparing training programs and designing plays while ensuring his players are taking the necessary steps to turn around a program with one over the last three seasons.

Many first-year coaches take similar approaches in their first months leading a program. Only there's one big difference in Guyader's case: He has yet to meet a single player face-to-face. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Guyader has been forced to make all his first-year preparations in the digital world. He's developed video workout programs to help kids stay in shape and asked players to show their progress by submitting videos or photos of what they've been working on, with all communication taking place on Zoom or other digital services.

"We wanted to create something that is equitable and gives the kids all the same feelings that they would have if we could meet in person," Guyader said. "We have to execute all of this in a different fashion. That’s nothing we’re ever going to make an excuse about, but we have to find a way to make progress and gives them something to look forward to. We are flexible, but the players do have to do some things. They can submit videos each weekend and that’s how we coach them up and give them football feedback while also teaching accountability and team principles.

"Everything that we would be doing in person, we are able to do. I'm excited for the kids who are participating and doing it."

Guyader says he's been working with a group of about 50 student-athletes who plan on playing football once schools are given the green light to practice in December. Guyader notes that incoming Cabrillo freshmen are welcomed to join in on the preparations for the season, which is slated to kickoff Friday, Jan. 8.

Guyader has an extensive football background, but his academic background has also helped him handle these challenges. He's coached at Cal Poly and Army and has a doctorate in Civil Engineering. In addition to filling Cabrillo's varsity coach position, Guyader is teaching in the school's math department. Before coming to Cabrillo, he was a lecturer in the Engineering Department at Cal Poly, a post he took after his final season coaching at West Point in 2014.

"He's one of the smartest guys I’ve ever spoken with," Cabrillo athletic Director Gary West said of Guyader. "He has written articles about football analytics, he's very intelligent. He reminds of a lot of a Bill Belichick or Kyle Shanahan. He's quiet, but his knowledge of the game is impressive. He understands parts of the game with great depth."

Guyader feels his outlook during this global crisis has also helped him navigate these tricky waters.

"I think, for one, my attitude and approach towards this has not been one where I've moped or thought, 'This isn’t going right or it shouldn’t be this way,'" Guyader said. "I am constantly preparing myself to be better, whether it's classroom work and computer programming stuff or as the head football coach.

"It's another challenge to conquer and it's something to figure out."

While Guyader has spent some time focusing on the X's and O's on the field, he doesn't put all his stock in that aspect of coaching. Guyader, who says he'll install an offensive system that fits his players' style, hopes this obstacle will eventually bring his team closer together if the pandemic clears up and the season does start in January as currently scheduled.

"I believe that the playbook and plays are only a very small part of building a successful program," he said. "I believe that culture beats scheme -- playbooks are only as good as the the programmatic foundation they are built upon."

The first day Guyader was scheduled to be on campus at Cabrillo was March 16, the same day on-campus activities and all athletic events were suspended and eventually canceled for the rest of the school year. 

"It did happen a little differently than I had expected," he said. "It's like a football game -- you don’t know what to expect right until you’re in the middle of it."

Though Guyader has been preoccupied by figuring out how to prepare a football team without being able to meet with the players, he hasn't lost sight of what he calls his top priority amid all this.

"As this thing unfolded, something we have focused on is the health and safety of the kids and their families," Guyader said. "We just have to be aware that the way this (virus) moves, the spread of it is a little more tricky. That’s what is always at the forefront of everything that I’m thinking about: keeping them healthy and encourage the players to stay as aware as possible.

"When we do get a chance to get together, their health and safety will always be the most important thing to me; virus or no virus. The effects on the family and their living situation is also very important. We’ll see how the next couple of months unfold."

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