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Coaching during COVID: Mount Carmel Area football coach lifts players’ spirits during pandemic

Coaches in our area are stepping up off the field during the pandemic, all in the name of helping kids. That includes a football coach from Northumberland County.

MOUNT CARMEL, Pa. — David Klimas of Northumberland County is a youth football coach who actually used his vacation time from work to lift the spirits of the team he leads in Mount Carmel.

"They loved being with Dave because he gave them something to do that was out of the box and that get their mind off the pandemic," said Tracy Rhodes.

Like so many parents whose little ones play sports, Tracy Rhodes is grateful her 11-year-old son John has a coach in his life like Klimas.

"Back during the pandemic when everything was canceled, and our kids had nothing to do, nowhere to go, I was contacted by my son's football coach, David Klimas, to start to see if my son was interested in doing a speed and agility training program," said Tracy. "So he took my son and then two other boys and started during the week and hour or so to go out to get them trained back in for football. And as things rolled, it just got bigger and bigger, more days a week."

It was the motivation needed over the past year to get outdoors and to get moving for Tracy’s son John and others on the Mount Carmel Junior Red Tornadoes Football Team.

"It gave me something to do. So then I wasn't inside doing nothing. And it was just fun for me to talk to my friends, have fun while I was doing the exercises and everything," said John.

"To see my son who was sitting in the house and who was a very social person, missing his friends, missing the things that he loved to do, missing, going to football practice, and being able to get out every single day in a safe environment to go with his coach, who not only gave him the skills to physically get himself back in shape after sitting around for so long, but he had the kids involved in everything," added Tracy. "They were out painting lines on the field, so they knew that they had their six feet distancing. The kids were involved in every aspect of it. And I love that he is such a positive role model for them. He gave up all of his time. He gave up his week’s vacation to do the camp. And even the three moms that he started with, we know he's working on his house, so we got him a gift card for one of the home improvement stores, and he ended up using that to make boxes for the kids so they would have something to jump on to get better while they were at camp."

Coach Dave, who works as a correction officer full-time, says the smiles on the faces of those young players made it all worth it. After all, the entire 2020 season filled with games and other events never happened because of COVID-19.

"I felt with everything being canceled during the pandemic, they needed something to do. We had to get out. We had to get the kids out. If they're cooped up, then they aren't going to go anywhere. They can't do anything and could get out of shape, and then they wouldn't want to get back into things," said Coach Dave.

Ryan asked John, "How would you describe the coach?" John said, "He's good to a lot of the other kids. He's funny."

Fun moments made possible thanks to Coach Dave. Most of his creative outdoor events played out from last spring into the fall, get-togethers that meant as much to a coach as they did the kids.

"They're laughing. They're carrying on. They're happy to be out in the fresh air. They're happy to be out with their peers, their siblings, or friends. You know, it was just it was unbelievable to see all the smiles that came about because of it," added Coach Dave. "The reactions, it's the parents' reactions, the kids' reactions to it all. You can see a smile brighten up. You can see them growing; you can see them learning. You can see them becoming a bigger, better person here rather than just the size or physicality or anything. It's all about their heart. And when you see that, when you see their heart develop, it's just truly amazing."

Parents with the Mount Carmel Junior Red Tornadoes say they built their program from nothing two years ago. And if it wasn’t for Coach Dave and his passion and creativity during the pandemic, it probably wouldn’t be where it is today.