With his players bent over and sucking for air — kind of like they had broken three ribs — Columbus North offensive line coach Aaron Karrer issued a rather stern challenge.
“Get your hands off your knees,” Karrer said Monday in a barking tone on the opening day of high school football practice in Indiana. “It makes you look like a coward. You really have to go to work now. There is no feeling sorry for yourself.
“My job is to yell. Your job is to lift somebody up.”
In the new-world order, Karrer was using some old-school, verbal butt-kicking that brought a smile to the face of Bull Dogs head coach Tim Bless, who calls Karrer as modern as they come.
Bless explained how Karrer attends as many college practices and clinics as he can to learn new techniques to pass along to the players. At times, though, plain ol’ tough can be effective.
“I’m really more old-school than he is,” Bless said.
Whether at East or North, the practices Monday were a celebration of football philosophies and how things have changed over the years yet remained similar in terms of the core goals.
These early workouts, where the players’ mettle is tested on a drill-by-drill basis, are intended to build character, promote leadership and cement a bond of togetherness.
Never mind those three big fans on the East sideline blowing mist over the players while they take a water break. Forget all those new rules, that were rightfully passed, to promote better safety. Don’t pay any attention to that Field Turf. Listen to the message.
“Never, never, never.”
“That was a beautiful job of striking.”
“We’re losing the enthusiasm here.”
“Quit walking on the field.”
“Play fast, the play is not over.”
“Balance, balance, balance.”
We’ve heard those words since football became a sport. We’ve just refined ways to deliver the message to athletes who have grown far bigger, faster and stronger. Football is better at the high school level than it ever has been, and yes, the perfect example is right here in Columbus.
Columbus is fortunate to have two exceptional programs that go about things differently to eventually arrive in roughly the same place.
From the “two things can be different and yet equally true department” — Do East and North go about things differently? Oh yes. While East took a confident, calm approach to the first day of drills, North had a more urgent approach. Are they both headed for success? Oh yes.
East’s practice was performed with machine-like precision. Head coach Bob Gaddis obviously is a guy who knows what he likes and wants.
One thing he doesn’t want is profanity.
An Olympian made the mistake of uttering a choice “oh my gosh” term while suffering from fatigue. Gaddis added five yards to the next sprint, for the entire team. The message hit home.
Bless accomplished his task on Monday of making sure his players knew that they had a lot of work to do if they expected to be a championship team. He teased them going into the practice-ending sprints. “This is the moment you’ve been waiting for,” he said.
After they struggled through those brutal, final drills, the players gathered around Bless. He talked to them about effort and, if they put it all together, “special things would happen.”
Special things are happening at East and North. But you already knew that because this appears to be a football-crazy town.
Whether they yell or not, the message has been delivered.
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