When Chris Kempton stepped down as Out-of-Door Academy football head coach in the middle of February, Thunder assistant coach KB Belton took over the responsibilities to make sure the ODA players still had what they needed to move forward.
“I like to prepare,” Belton said. “I told the staff we need to make sure the kids have everything they need no matter who comes in next season as head coach.”
It was a move that paid off.
Monday, Out-of-Door Academy named Belton as its fourth head coach in program history.
“Absolutely, this is the only job I wanted to take,” Belton said. “I’ve developed a strong bond with the kids in the community. This was the place to be.”
The 30-year-old from St. Louis will be taking his first varsity coaching position. He coached Pop Warner and was commissioner of the Sarasota Under the Lights flag football program sponsored by Under Armour.
He began coaching the Out-of-Door Middle School program, moved up to the Thunder junior varsity, and was the offensive coordinator for the varsity this past season.
“I’ve been with a lot of the kids in the program,” Belton said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Belton from conducting spring football and implementing his summer plan, so far.
“It’s tough. As a first-year head coach and being hired so late in the process, I wasn’t able to gather all our guys and let them know the direction we are going in,” he said. “I don’t even know what we have coming back. Being a smaller school we get what we get. It’s tough not being able to recruit the hallways.”
Belton has reached some of the returning players through Zoom meetings twice a week to go over offensive and defensive strategies.
“I love to prepare. I love to make sure our kids have everything possible that they can have to be successful on the field and in the classroom,” he said. “We also go over some life things, making sure they are doing the right things, making sure they know what this pandemic is, understand why this is happening.
“We’ve been doing the best we can with the time we have.”
The Thunder finished 6-3 last year, the third straight year they won six games. They also made the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoffs for a third straight year.
“I can’t wait. As soon as we get the green light, I already talked to the strength and conditioning coach, so we already have something planned,” Belton said. “We’ll hit the ground running.”
One thing that will not change from last year is the offense. With Division I recruit Tyler Beasley, who has an offer from the University of Tennessee, calling the signals, the Thunder will remain a spread offense for the second straight year. Previously, Out-of-Door had three different offenses in three seasons.
As far as the coaching staff, Belton said he has one or two openings.
“We’re about 95 percent filled. I like to prepare. I prepared for this months ago, just in case I ended up getting it. I reached out to guys who were on the staff and see if they were coming back,” Belton said. “I’ve been reaching out. If it started today, we would be able to do it.”
One of Belton’s main concerns is the Middle School team, which is the feeder system to the high school teams.
“When I was the middle school head coach, I would go down to the lower campus and talk to the fifth and sixth graders,” he said. “I didn’t have the chance to do it this year. We get a lot of kids from the middle school program.”
The Thunder are looking for a kickoff classic. They also may be searching for a regular-season game since Kennedy Catholic from Somers, New York, was supposed to make another trip south to face the Thunder.