By David Purdum / For the AJC
How do you coach a player to be more aggressive, more physical, after they’ve seen an opponent suffer a fatal injury playing the game?
New Banneker coach Ryan Andrews is facing that challenge.
Andrews, a 29-year-old first-year head coach, is trying to help his team understand and move past a tragedy that is every coach’s, every player’s, every parent’s and every football fan’s worst nightmare.
Andrews was on the sidelines last week, when Creekside defensive back De’Antre Turman suffered a broken neck making a tackle during a scrimmage and later died. The injury occurred early in the third quarter. The scrimmage was stopped.
The next morning, Andrews delivered the news of Turman’s death to his team in an emotional meeting for everyone involved.
“I told them that it’s OK to hurt, it’s OK to be upset,” said Andrews during a Thursday phone interview. “We can’t allow this tragedy to stop us from living our lives. I just kept telling them that we’ll be OK, and that it’s OK to hurt for while, but after while, we’ve got to move forward.”
Andrews said there was a lot of shock and disbelief. Kids wanted to know how and why it happened. The autopsy had not been released by the time of the meeting, so Andrews didn’t have all the answers. He did the only thing he could do, listen and try to comfort his players.
Andrews gave the players Monday off. Practice resumed Tuesday. He says the first practice back started slow, but by Wednesday his team was “flying around and having fun” again.
“They bounced back pretty quickly,” he said.
Andrews said the player involved in the collision with Turman has managed to stay in good spirits and continues to practice hard. Andrews declined to give the player’s name.
Andrews hasn’t seen any signs of players shying away from contact, but said if it does happen, he’ll be understanding and try to coach them up.
“It’s not a situation where you jump their butt,” he said. “You teach them the proper technique–head up, hips down and see what you hit–and continue to coach them up and eventually they’ll get through it.”
Overwhelming support from the program’s parents has been a big help. Andrews said not one parent has talked to him about pulling their child from the team.
But safety remains on the mind of everyone involved.
“As we see at all levels from pros to little league, they’re continuing to modify, change rules to insure that safety is a priority,” Andrews said. “We have to continue to coach safety. They have various programs around that teach safety. We have to continue to do those things and everything will be OK.”
Banneker opens the season Thursday, Aug. 29 against Eastern Christian of Maryland as part of a double-header at Sandy Creek High School.
Funeral services for Turman will be at held at 11 a.m., Saturday at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedra, 212 Riverside Parkway in Austell.