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More than just football

Anyone visiting the weight room at the field house at Tuck Dillard Stadium on Monday and Thursday afternoons won’t see football players lifting heavy iron weights – you will see them lifting textbooks instead.

 For two afternoons each week, the weight room is transformed into a classroom. It is a beehive of activity, some players working on homework assignments, some working on classroom projects, and some receiving tutoring help from coaches and teammates.

When he was hired to take over the reins of the Halifax County High School football program Head Coach Michael Roark said he wanted to implement a study hall program to help the football players in the program bolster their academic progress.

Last week, during the team’s mid-season bye week, Roark kicked off the new study hall program.

“Over the years, you start seeing a need for it,” Roark explained.

“We’re getting homework done. We’re getting makeup work done. We’re trying to catch the kids up in the classroom.

“I see life pretty simply,” added Roark, “it’s God, country, family, education and your passion. Your passion is football, and it’s at the bottom of the ladder. Education has to come in front of it. We call them (the players) student-athletes for a reason.”

Roark said the mid-season bye week proved to be a good time to start the program.

“There have been so many things we have had to catch up on this year that I didn’t get started with it as quickly as I had wanted to,” the Comets’ coach noted.

“Now we’re beginning to implement it and make it a part of the daily regimen. The kids know to bring their homework, and they know that if they need help there are people here that can help them and they can get their work done. Now, we’re not sending kids home at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at night having to still do homework. They’ve had an opportunity to get it knocked out.”

Roark’s wife, Jennifer Roark, a teacher at Halifax County Middle School, Comets assistant coaches Garrick Vogt, Mike Lloyd, Dearrian Snead and various members of the team assist with the tutoring. Jennifer Roark, Vogt and Snead are social studies teachers and Lloyd is a science teacher. 

“I’ve got kids that have had Algebra II and have been in geometry working with the kids that need help with math. Jennifer is talking to some people at the middle school, and I’m still reaching out to a couple of teachers at the high school to help with math.”

Having students take on some of the tutoring is a win-win situation, Roark said.

“We’ve got some football players that are pretty smart and know what they’re doing,” he pointed out.

“Sometimes peer tutoring is easier on the kids than teacher-to-student tutoring.”


The players’ 


Roark said the reaction from some of the players when he told them about the study hall program during the pre-season was ‘yeah, right.’ When the program got on its feet last week, the reaction was much different. 

Senior wide receiver and defensive back Rufus Jeffress sees the program benefiting the entire Comets football program.

“This is one of the best steps we’ve taken in order to help the guys succeed both in sports and academically,” Jeffress said.

What I was trying to do was help some of these guys get ready for the SAT tests. I was helping guys with the reading and the writing sections and trying to give them tools and strategies that will help them.”

Jeffress said there is an additional benefit that the study hall program offers.

“I feel like this draws us much closer together as a team,” Jeffress pointed out.

“Not only are we spending time on the field, we’re all talking and interacting with one another while we do our homework, study for tests and get help on things we need help with. We’re all trying to help each other.”

Team manager Katie Davis says she enjoys the study hall program because it provides an outlet for her to help other students.

“I just like helping other people,” she explained.

“I’ve been raised to know that it’s not all about you a hundred percent of the time. It’s about others and God.”

“Some (students) think that football will take them everywhere,” she added.

“Now, they’re realizing it’s not all about football, it’s about education and football.”

Junior Ezra Walker, who helps tutor students in math, says the study hall benefits everyone involved, especially students that may be struggling academically.

“We have a lot of great players, and we know a lot of people don’t make it because of grades,” Walker said.

“It’s good to know we’re helping good players get better by helping the academic part of their journey of playing football. A lot of students can’t play sports because they didn’t pass their required classes the previous semester. It’s good knowing that the younger people coming up will have ways within the sport to improve their grades and be eligible to play football.”

Comets junior lineman Jairus Marable said the study hall program has been a big help to him.

“It’s a big help to me because I don’t have to wait so late to do my homework,” Marable explained.

“I can come in right before practice and do my homework and get people to help me if I need help, or help other players that need help. 

“It means a lot to me,” added Marable.

“When I’m at home, I don’t have the necessary help I need. Here I can ask Rufus, Ezra or one of the coaches a question and they can help me with my work.”


Off-season a prime time for study hall

The big time for the study hall program, Roark said, will come during the ensuing off-season. 

“The big time will be the off-season when we make them stay in the program,” Roark said.

“That way, we’re not scrambling in June with kids that need summer school.”

Roark says the study hall program can help students and teachers alike.

“If the kids have done their work, they’ll be happier going to class and will behave a little better,” he pointed out.

“I want the teachers to know I’ve got their back. If I’ve got kids that need to get work done, I want them (the teachers) to know we have study hall Mondays and Thursdays and we’ll get the work done and get it back into them.”