Amid pandemic, high school football coach takes a break from football for the first time in four decades
In these strange times of quarantine, Georgetown Prep Varsity football Head Hoach Dan Paro is minimized to emailing his lamentations and organizing the occasional Zoom call with his players.
For the first time since 1983, Paro is left alone on the field with nothing but silence and a cool breeze at 8 in the morning on the turf field. This time any other year he would be supervising almost 100 high school boys in football pads and helmets running drills on a playing turf whose surface temperature reaches 110 degrees by midday.
Under his coaching Georgetown Prep has amassed over 140 wins with the football team and 20 championship titles. Last year, his coaching prowess shone through when his football team returned from a 13 point deficit to win the championship in the second half.
“For the first time in my career the pandemic has challenged my attitude. What fuels me each day is the time I spend with the players and students face to face and in person. This has all been taken away. But, as I have said before, we have to fight through it and make the best of a bad situation. Attitude and faith dictates all, that is why it is always 50 and windy here at Prep,” said Paro.
Paro attended Georgetown Prep, graduating in 1979. Now, he serves as the head varsity football coach and athletic director. Paro played 8 years of college and high school football, going on to earning All-Ohio Athletic Conference athlete honors and graduating with a masters in Athletic Administration.
His life has revolved around the institution.
Now the pandemic has uprooted everything. The conditions of the pandemic has cancelled practices and delayed the start of the football season.
“It feels wrong to be this close to fall and not have football while hell week sucks and your body is sore and you want to go home, at least you all do it together and go through the highs and lows together as a team,” said Luke Lustig, junior and first time player on Paro’s varsity team, said of the cut .
Each summer the football team would usually spend a week at Georgetown Prep living in the empty dorms. The team has practice three times a day in the scalding summer sun hence the name “hell week”.
“Paro makes the practices and workouts tough but also gives us time for fun and bonding like the storytimes with upperclassmen and the skits we do on comedy night” asid Lustig.
Where some would see the pandemic as a break from work and stress of football, Paro said he sees a part of himself missing. Football being something that makes him whole and something he devotes hundreds of hours to. He believes that in these strange times his players have taken responsibility and have kept in shape for the good of the team.
“Good athletes are born with a gene, but great athletes are those whose work habits in all aspects of life each and every day allow them to reach new heights. Attitude dictates all and the great ones have it.” he told the News.
Those who play for Paro learn to value his coaching values: hard work conquers all and he pushes his players to be great in both the classroom and on the field.
Paro’s coaching style is built off of his values as a Jesuit alumni and instructor. The primary of which being his beliefs in ‘cura personalis’ or ‘care for the individual’ and ensuring he coaches each and every player knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
Recently graduated senior Christopher Singleton long stood out from his peers, until his senior football season, when injuries derailed his athletic career. He started with the first day of football camp and tore a hamstring, relinquishing him from all summer football practices and scrimmages just to return to the sport and a single game later tearing his ACL and being done for the rest of his senior season.
“As soon as I got injured Paro was the first one to come to my room…and if it wasn’t for him I would not be playing football today. Paro helped me find my love for football and also played a huge part in my recruitment to Gettysburg College” said Singleton.
The player said he sees Paro as a father figure while boarding at Prep — someone who truly cares about students on and off the field.
In his senior year Singleton went into a panic relating to the future of his football career since he was injured and would not be able to show his senior film. Paro went on to assist him into a starting role at Gettysburg College.
Singleton said he remembers Coach Paro telling him that “adversity is your friend” as a student-athlete. This has pushed him to keep hope and the drive to play football through all of his surgeries. It also lit a fire under the now 4 underclassmen on the offensive line who had been thrust into a starting role their first year playing varsity.
“In one practice we were really struggling to get the lineman steps and wide receiver routes down, but there was no shouting and no anger. We simply kept going until we got it right.” Paro said. “You can’t coach Xs and Os, you must know the person and understand them to have them play at their best.”
Paro’s leadership has created a culture that students want to be a part of. Without this student s wait. Now Paro and all of his athletes hope to make a big return in their delayed season occurring in March 2021 and to be back on their home field once again.