High school football coaches take different approaches to summer training
High school football coaches expect a return to normal this fall. But the pandemic season – which ended just a few months ago – still has teams grappling with the aftermath.
âCoaches are creatures of habit,â said Prairies coach Mike Peck. âWe always map non-navigable waters. “
This summer, football is going to be a little different. Summer camps will be skipped, practices will remain non-contact until July, and coaches will take the opportunity to build excitement for a full fall schedule.
So far, the latter hasn’t been a problem for most teams.
âIt’s actually our best summer since I’ve been coaching,â said Peck. âI was really blown away by the attendance.
The summer camp blues
Due to concerns over COVID-19, the first thing on the chopping block this summer was the traditional three-day summer camp. This is the second year in a row that most teams will go without a summer camp.
The camps – where teams spent days playing against each other, watching movies and training – are football’s greatest bonding experience.
Spending several days with teammates and going to the pool or to the movies without working on the grill is a way to bring a group together. Late evenings lead to deep conversations, where coaches and teammates get to know each other, La Center coach John Lambert said.
âIt’s something difficult to replicate with girlfriends, relatives and other friends nearby,â Lambert added.
Some teams schedule more scrimmages and 7v7 matches locally to compensate for the live action component at most camps.
Coaches will still be able to get a feel for how well players are performing in game-like action. But in small schools like La Center, they may not have the same luxury.
âIt’s difficult, however, because there are so many vacations,â Lambert said. âWe will have a scrum. It’s the least we’ve ever had.
Most teams typically have their most intense practices early in the summer season, once football is cleared to resume after Memorial Day. But this year, the WIAA has limited the programs to just 10 contact days during their summer training.
This has caused some trainers to rethink when to use these days.
âWe want to use these 10 days to the best of our ability,â said Peck. “We’re going to use this last part of July as a summer camp and get these padded practices and play against other teams.”
This delay will also help give players a bit more time to rest from the season that ended in April for Schools 3A and 4A. Many players continued to play another sport, in which the matches were packed into a condensed time frame.
It is essential to avoid burnout, even if the team is in good health after the shortened 2020-21 football season, âsaid Lambert.
âWe want them to enjoy the time they have with us,â Lambert said. “We only do three days a week, two hours each training session so it doesn’t drag on.”
Mountain View takes perhaps the most unorthodox approach to summer. Rather than doing traditional football practices in June, Adam Mathieson’s staff have chosen to treat the 2020-21 seven-game season like a âspring ballâ.
âWe are currently in our traditional summer conditioning program and do not have specific football practices,â Mathieson said.
Ready for fall
With a full season set to begin in September, the level of excitement among the players is at an all time high for this time of year, several coaches have agreed.
At Columbia River, the Rapids regularly send 45 players to practice, said coach Brett Smedley. Prairie is about 85-90.
âI think there are a multitude of factors,â said Peck. âSome of the kids missed a lot last year and want to be a part of it. Some of the ghosts are not happy with the way spring has gone and want to get better. “
Athletes are also more familiar with the systems, routines and verbiage, which are still so fresh in their minds, the coaches agreed. This made it easy to focus on installing new packages and debugging others.
By August 18, when the teams’ fall season officially begins, coaches expect things to return to normal.
Lambert said: “I really hope.”