Indian Creek coach Mike Gillin has been through the drill many, many times. Thirty-three, to be exact.
Yet there’s still something about of the first day of high school football practice he never tires of.
Gillin, entering his 12th season as varsity head coach at Indian Creek, treasures Day 1 like no other.
“When it gets old, I’ll probably get out of it. All this week I’ve been antsy” Gillin said, referring to Monday, the official start of football practice in Indiana. “I’m just ready to get out there and see exactly who we’ve got out there.”
Whiteland’s Darrin Fisher feels the same way. Though for his team, Day 1 will have a markedly different feel than most others in the state.
With the adoption of a balanced calendar, Whiteland starts classes Wednesday, which means the Warriors — unlike the Johnson County’s other five teams — will be denied the tradition of two-a-day practices.
Instead, the Warriors will immediately begin their after-school practice routine, a deviation that does nothing to diminish the thrill of the first official day for Fisher, who’s beginning his 22nd year as a varsity head coach and his eighth at Whiteland.
“Absolutely, absolutely. You change from summer mode into preseason mode,” Fisher said, noting the Warriors conducted preseason camp last week in lieu of two-a-days.
“Now you’re thinking about playing a football game. Now you’re thinking about getting prepared for an opponent.”
Hence the charm of Day 1, which heralds the Aug. 17 season-openers. Although teams have worked out and drilled together — and even competed against opponents in 7-on-7 tournaments — throughout the summer, the first official practice day officially starts the countdown.
Moreover, it’s the first day players transition from one form of conditioning to another — as in getting ready for hitting and receiving hits. Days 1 and 2 are non-contact in helmets and shoulder pads. But Day 3, Wednesday, is the first day of full equipment and full-throttle physicality.
“Football shape is different than anything else,” Fisher said. “You can say I’m in shape; we’ve been running; we’ve been lifting; we’ve been doing agility drills; we’ve been doing all those things, but getting in football shape’s a different deal.
“Yeah, there is an excitement that comes along with the first day, because now you’re thinking about getting ready for an opponent.”
Gillin agrees. The Class 3A Braves open the season against visiting Class 5A Terre Haute South, a dramatic schedule upgrade intended to boost their chances of winning a third straight sectional championship.
“We’re pretty much ready. I feel like we’re about as prepared as we can be going into the first day of practice,” said Gillin, who’s never had a losing season at Indian Creek. “I’m hoping that the heat gives us a little break somehow.
“That’s going to be the biggest issue for coaches to deal with this year, the heat, and how to deal with all that.”
Unlimited water breaks, early-morning and late-afternoon practices and when, heat indexes dictate, indoor work are among the methods local coaches plan to employ in the midst of a record heat wave that has gripped the state throughout the summer.
As a consequence, Indian Creek’s normal summer routine has been anything but normal as a result of frequent triple-digit temperature days.
“We really haven’t been able to condition hard this summer because of the heat,” Gillin said. “We haven’t been able to run them as much, so conditioning’s going to be a factor. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit of a break so we can do a little more of that.
“If it’s hot like it has been, we won’t do much running. We’ll get the helmets off and give them as much water as they want.”
Because of the heat, Fisher conducted much of last week’s preseason camp indoors. The Warriors could find themselves occasionally in the gym again if afternoon temperatures dictate.
“A lot of our teaching, a lot of our work was done inside the gym,” Fisher said. “We were outside for the parts that we felt were critically necessary to have the field markings and space. I think we adapted really well to the heat last week, and we’ll continue to do so.”
Fisher insists the Class 5A Warriors have successfully adapted to the loss of two-a-days, which he doesn’t view as a setback in preperation for the season-opener against visiting Class 4A New Palestine.
“The things we would do from an installation standpoint, we did last week. You have to adapt to the situation you’re presented, and I think we’ve made the most of it,” he said. “I think we’ve had a fantastic summer, and I think we’ve adapted well to be prepared for this preseason part of the schedule.
“We’re right where we want to be right now.”
Gillin feels the same way about the Braves. He can’t wait for Day 1 to confirm his belief.
“We pretty much know what we’ve got going in and what the kids have done all through the summer,” he said. “But there’s nothing like getting out there and start putting everything together. It is exciting.
“So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.”
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