School ended about a week ago, but for athletes looking to play on their respective high school’s football team, the summer break was over before it began.
This week, players at Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute literally hit the ground running, as they started conditioning for the upcoming season with speed and agility drills as well as weightlifting.
“These next two weeks will tell me who really wants to grind it out — become better and play,” LCHS coach Kirk Warner said as he looked over the roughly 90 prospects who were in summer training. “We will use these next two weeks to get in shape and get them acclimated to the weather. Then, we can focus on the mental aspects of the game where they can absorb everything.”
Approximately the same number of potential players at Bradwell recently started their days at 7 a.m.
“We had some great numbers this morning, and I am glad those guys are dedicated and committed to coming out and putting the work,” new Tiger coach Greg Hill said. “I feel like we are a little bit behind with the conditioning and weights. We didn’t get started until a little later in the year. Right now, we are playing catch-up.”
With so many players participating in summer conditioning, both head coaches pretty much used the same game plan, splitting the groups in two. While half were pumping iron inside the weight room, the other half were outside running sprints, doing calisthenics and performing agility drills.
At LCHS, coach Casey Hale made the players run good, old-fashioned wheelbarrow races, which build shoulder strength and develop core muscles.
At BI, Hill ran a tight program in the weight room. The players worked together in teams of two and three as they did sets of bench presses and squats.
Hill said they will clock players in the 40-yard dash later this summer.
“We have to teach them how to run and how to start,” he said. “You’d be surprised. A lot of the guys don’t even know how to get into a starter’s stance … and then just teaching them about form running and things like that. It’s the little things and that is what we’ve been preaching … it’s the fundamentals, and we are starting from ground zero and will build our way up from there. It’s the little things that make the big plays.”
At LCHS, speed coach Nathan Mims showed younger and newer players where to place their hands and feet when starting the 40-yard dash. Some of the veteran returners already were clocking their 40s to see where they were and where they need to be by August.
Warner said players who can hang in the program will get a chance to see some action this fall.
“We don’t cut anybody,” he said. “If they make it through the summer with 90 percent or more attendance, then they have a spot. As long as they come to work, they won’t get cut … it is strictly up to them.”
Hill said he finally is feeling comfortable in his role. He said his staff is in place and each coach is handling his responsibilities, allowing him to focus on running the team. He said the work put in now will pay in dividends.
Right now, for both schools, it’s about baby steps. Getting the players used to the workouts, developing their cardiovascular endurance and adapting them to the climate while tweaking the fundamentals is at the heart of summer training.
The teams will work for the next two weeks before they take another break as mandated by the Georgia High School Association. After that, it will be time to train with helmets and shorts and, soon after, in full gear in the August heat.