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Roark named new HCHS football coach

Less than 24 hours after the Halifax County School Board Monday night named Michael Roark as the new head varsity football coach at Halifax County High School, Roark was already getting started in his new job.

After a morning press conference at the school yesterday, Roark was scheduled to meet with coaches and begin evaluations of conditioning and weightlifting programs.

“We’re already three months behind,” Roark pointed out.

“I’m meeting with the coaches today to see when the players are lifting (weights) and evaluate what we’re doing in the weight room. I want to see which coaches are in there and what their take is on everything.

“Then,” he added, “we’ve got to get into the hallways and get the kids that are planning on playing football who are not involved in another sport to come and lift.”

Roark, a 51-year-old Gretna native with coaching experience on both the high school and college levels, will begin his duties as a health and physical education and driver education teacher at Halifax County High School on April 1.

One of the key things Roark wants to bring to the Comets football program is stability.

“I told these gentlemen (Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph and Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter, both of whom were seated next to Roark
during the press conference) I have a daughter in the sixth grade, and the plan is for her to graduate from Halifax County High School.” Roark pointed out.

Along with stability, Roark wants to change the culture of Halifax County High School football.

“Emotion and enthusiasm are the quickest ways to change things,” he pointed out.

“You’ve got to change the mentality. I’ve got to get out into the halls and use my recruiting skills to get the kids that are not playing to come out and play football. I’ve got to get all of the coaches on the same page. It’s going to be a little bit of work, but I think we can do it.”

Roark and Randolph pointed out that a key point of focus is to get the Halifax County Middle School and county youth football programs onto the same page with the high school program.

“Our goal is to get all of the teams moving in the same direction, and place players from little league to the high school in the positions that are best suited for them to experience as much success as possible,” Randolph said.

“We’re looking at doing some revamping at the middle school.”

“I’m going to reach out to the middle school coaches and talk to them,” added Roark. “Youth, middle school and high school all need to be somewhere on the same page. I need to hear their philosophies on things, and sit down and let’s talk it out. I want them to be a part of my program.”

Roark pointed out that when you look at the top football programs in the country everybody is on the same page from the youth leagues through the high school programs.

“When you go to Texas or South Carolina and look at the top programs, these programs start when the kids are eight-years-old,” Roark pointed out.

“It’s like a machine. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Roark is serious about football. But he is equally, if not more serious about the importance of academics.

“You have to be serious about academics,” Roark pointed out.

“These kids are student-athletes. The bottom line is “student” has to be part of the deal.”

Roark has already developed a plan to help bolster the academic situations of players in the Comet football program.

“We’re going to implement a study hall on Mondays and Thursdays,” he explained.

“If you don’t have a 2.5 grade-point average, you’ll be in study hall. If you don’t have a 2.5, you’re not going to be punished from playing. You can still come play football, but you’re going to come to tutoring on Monday and Thursday.”

Roark says he plans to develop a team of academic coaches to help the students.

“We’re going to put together a study hall team of academic coaches with the purpose to keep these kids eligible and get them to understand how to study, how to take tests and understand what the right things to do in the classroom are,” he explained.

“We’ve got to set the expectations in the classroom and on the field, and go from there.”

When it comes to a student playing other sports in addition to football, Roark says he is supportive of that.

“I say play them all,” he remarked.

“I played football, basketball and played baseball and I had a blast. All I ask is that we figure out a time for you to come lift weights. If I’ve got to meet you in the morning, I’ll meet you in the morning. We’ll adjust the workouts. We’re not going to make a kid come in here and bench press 500 pounds on a game day. But, we’re still going to make them lift during the seasons.”

When it comes to cutting players, particularly at the middle school level, Roark says cuts should be avoided if possible.

“If you have 40 kids playing football in the eighth grade, you want those 40 kids playing football in the ninth grade, and you want those 40 kids playing football in the tenth grade,” Roark said as an example.

“Their job (the job of middle school coaches) is to teach them the basics and keep them in the program.”

Roark said the high school will implement a “fifth quarter” system this season similar to that used on the middle school level. That way, everybody on the team will get a chance to play and learn the game.

“Why would I want a ninth-grader to come run his butt off all through August and September and sit the bench all year long?” Roark queried.

“He’s not going to come out next year.”

Roark envisions having Comets football players being busy as they prepare for the coming season. Along with conditioning and weightlifting, will be something new for Comets players – spring ball.

“With the new Virginia High School League rules, we’re going to have 12 days of spring ball,” Roark pointed out.

Players will work out in t-shirts and shorts, and will work on everything from conditioning to drills.

Also, Roark is planning to bring an NFL high school player development camp to Halifax County High School for a week starting June 18, with the camp running for five days with sessions from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. each day. Special guest coaches will lead the camp.

The camp is one of three such camps that Roark conducts in Virginia during the  summer. He explained that the camp to be held at Halifax County High School is one that he is moving from Amherst County High School.

Roark said players from William Campbell High School, Heritage High School of Lynchburg, Randolph-Henry High School and possibly others will join Comets players in the camp.

“It’s a laid-back time,” Roark said.

“Players will participate in helmets and shoulder pads. It’s going to be good because the kids will get to meet different players from different schools. We’re going to get these kids coached up and ready to play some football.”

After that, seven-on-seven contests are played during the summer months. Then come the traditional pre-season scrimmage games before the season opens in late August.

“We’re going to run an NFL high school player development camp. I’m going to move the one from Lynchburg down here and run that in June. We’re going to get these kids coached up and ready to play some football.”