Monday I watched parts of nine different high school opening-day practices for the fall sports season. While each coaching staff had their own style or philosophy, most had two things they emphasized – conditioning and fundamentals.
At 8 a.m. the Henry County cross country and volleyball teams kicked off the fall season.
Cross country Coach Ricky Drawbaugh had his team run a 5k time trial at Harry Hill Park to assess their fitness and give the runners a baseline from which to start. Volleyball coach Katie Ruff started the year with a lot of conditioning drills and work on serving and receiving.
The Eminence volleyball team started next at 9 a.m. with about an hour of conditioning before they began to work on the fundamentals with various drills to improve their serving, passing, setting and hitting.
After a break in the middle of the day I went to the Henry County Country Club to take in a little golf action as new boy’s golf coach Steve Galyon put his players through their workout. Galyon started things off with an organizational meeting and then sent the boys to the driving range where he repeated the mantra ‘keep your head down” over and over as the boys tried to knock the cover off the ball.
I guess the young Wildcat squad wanted to impress their new coach with how far they could hit the ball. But Galyon wasn’t impressed. He continued to emphasize a fluid swing and “keep your head down.”
At 5 p.m. the girls golf team swung into action as head coach William Peyton and his new assistant April Berry worked with the very young squad on things like proper alignment of their feet and “keeping their heads down.”
Next it was off to the Henry County High School practice football field where the team had just finished conditioning and was breaking into groups by position. Receivers worked on catching, linemen worked on blocking assignments and quarterbacks and running backs worked on handoffs and option reads.
It was while watching the quarterbacks practice handoffs that I remembered my days as a middle school football coach and the fact that something that seems as simple as handing a football to another player really is a complicated endeavor that requires good timing and proper footwork in order to avoid fumbling the ball away. Coach Jason Spencer repeatedly stopped the players to emphasize the footwork portion of the handoff as he wanted perfection on opening day. As the players shook the rust off, they began to work seamlessly together.
My next stop was back at Harry Hill Park at 7 p.m. for boys’ soccer practice. By the time I arrived coach Bobby Jameson had already put the team through conditioning and warm up drills and the team was scrimmaging on half the field with the offense going against the defense.
I was impressed with how much better the skill level appeared to be compared to last year’s team. Jameson stopped the team regularly to emphasize points to the team. Movement off the ball was a main point of emphasis as was aggressive, positional defense.
While the boys were practicing, the girls’ team showed up for their practice and began with a few laps around the field followed by agility drills. With the sun getting lower in the sky coach Brandi Stivers had the girls work on some basic ball-touch drills. Unfortunately, I had to leave before I could take in more of their practice. I still had one more stop to make before my long day of sports viewing was over.
I finished my night at the Eminence High School football field where Coach Steve Frommeyer and his staff were just beginning to work on some fundamentals after spending about an hour on weightlifting and conditioning.
The thing I was most impressed with was the size and number of linemen the team had out. I had heard about the huge football team that the Eminence Middle School team had last year and was getting my first close up look at them. I doubt that Eminence has had this much size on their line in many years, if ever.
The key for Frommeyer and his staff will be bringing the young linemen along quickly enough to combine with the skilled position players returning from last year.
After watching about half the practices it occurred to me that players and coaches are of very different mindsets on opening day. Most of the coaches are watching their players fumble nervously through the first few drills. Many of the players are struggling because their conditioning is not up to par and the coaches are scratching their heads and wondering how they can possibly get their team ready for the first game. If you asked the coaches they would probably all say that there is not enough time before the first game to be properly prepared.
Meanwhile, the players, after being put through wind sprints, gassers, line touches and drills, drills, and more drills are wishing preseason practices were over and that is was time for the games to begin.