There have been zero varsity athletic events in Bartow County over the past two months. During that time period, there’s been a noticeable uptick in social media usage by those associated with Adairsville athletics.
Those two things are certainly related, but there’s another reason why the Tigers — both team and individual player accounts — have seen an increase in volume and activity on Twitter, specifically.
It has to do with the hiring of Drew Elrod as the school’s athletic coordinator. After receiving his promotion, Elrod is looking, in turn, to promote Adairsville athletes as part of the recruiting process.
While Elrod, who has been at Adairsville Middle the past two years, won’t technically take over the newly created position until July 1, he’s already using the unprecedented situation created by the COVID-19 outbreak to get a jump on things.
“We’ve been able to be very productive with this downtime,” he said. “Instead of having a wait-and-see attitude, we’re attacking it and doing all that we can right now with the time that we’ve been given.
“Obviously, we’d much rather be around our athletes, and we’d much rather have things going back as scheduled. It’s not the case right now. That’s kind of what we teach our athletes. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you operate in those circumstances. We’ve tried to model that and get ahead of the curve with some digital strategies.”
Tigers athletic director Meredith Barnhill will be working closely with Elrod once school starts back up again. His addition to the department with help her balance some of her duties, which also include an assistant principal role.
Barnhill has been impressed to see Elrod take advantage of the early opportunity to begin implementing some of the online initiatives he would like to employ.
“I have been very pleased and excited by the fact that he has jumped in with both feet,” she said. “… We’ll never have this kind of time again to work with our kids on this kind of thing. When there’s and ours schedules have kind of opened up a little bit.
"Even though this shutdown and this quarantine have been very frustrating in many ways, this is one positive we’ve been able to pull out of it.”
So far, Elrod has been able to conduct Zoom meetings with groups of male and female athletes, along with their parents, on basic tutorials for how to create and manage an online presence, as well as hold discussions with several coaches about how to best facilitate the recruitment of their athletes.
“The response has been great,” Barnhill said. “I’m very proud of our kids. I’m proud seeing what they’re doing on social media and how they’re responding to what we’re asking them to do. They’re doing a good job of making sure their bios and timelines are set up right, and they’re putting out the right sort of information.”
Another key aspect of Elrod’s role is aiding the process of making Adairsville athletics 6-12, meaning the continuity between the middle school and high school programs remains consistent.
“This is just going to be one more thing that we do with our middle school athletics to make sure we streamline the process and the transition,” Barnhill said. “It’s just another way for our coaches up here to get to know our kids at the middle school and help them, so they’re ready to be here as soon as their ninth-grade year starts.”
Elrod even envisions going a step further, strengthening bonds between the school teams and youth programs and building greater relationships with the community at large. In actuality, his job responsibilities will become more defined when school resumes, but the seemingly boundless scope of the position actually drew Elrod to apply in the first place.
“When I heard about it, I thought it was a unique opportunity, something we’ve never had in our county before,” Elrod said. “It was a great idea from [superintendent] Dr. [Phillip] Page and others at the central office to develop and create this position. … There was a lot of exciting potential I saw from this job opportunity.”
A former three-sport athlete at Adairsville, Elrod went on to become a college quarterback at Carson-Newman and Shorter. After graduating, he spent a pair of two-year stints at AMS sandwiched around six years at Cass High. During those 10 years, Elrod coached middle school boys basketball and high school football.
That résumé gives him the unique blend of experiences to connect with students in both buildings, particularly those going through the recruiting process, as well as their coaches.
“I think it’s going to pay off in a major way for our kids,” Elrod said of his background. “I had experience from being recruited as a high school athlete to going on to the next level. I came back into the coaching and education world, seeing everything from a different perspective.
“Especially today in our digital age, with social media and things of that nature, we want to make sure our student-athletes at Adairsville are being promoted in a positive light to get their brand out there, to get their name out there, to get exposure to college coaches and recruiters.”
Elrod isn’t the only familiar face at Adairsville set to move into a new position with the Tigers.
Kurt Scoggins was recently named to the position of strength and conditioning coordinator. Although, unlike Elrod, Scoggins’ new title won’t lead to many visible changes within the athletic department.
“Coach Scoggins is going to be a very easy transition for our kids,” Barnhill said. “He’s already been in the weight room with them, and he’s already worked through countless summers with our kids. They’re not going to notice a whole lot different. He’s been doing a lot of these things. He’s going to tweak it and make it a little more his own.”
Barnhill is extremely excited about the creation of both positions. She emphasized that — between the promotion aspect of Elrod’s role and the physical development responsibilities of Scoggins’ job — their impact will be vital in consistently improving Adairsville’s athletic standing.
“We want them to be excited about being an Adairsville Tiger,” Elrod said of the students. “We have some of the best coaches, teachers and facilities — across the board — of anywhere around. We want them to stay in Adairsville; we want them to come through our program; and if it’s something they want to do to go on to the next level to play collegiate athletics, we’re going to do everything we can to see that through.”