If high school football has an offseason, it certainly doesn’t include the summer.
There is, however, that one week period sandwiched around July 4 when coaches are prevented from running any organized drills.
So what did Columbus East offensive lineman Rob McKee do that week?
“I stayed in town,” McKee said after a training run last week in Mill Race Park. “I still worked out.”
Being a senior this season, Mc-Kee knows that today’s opening day of high school football practice in Indiana will be brutal for those who don’t put in the hours. “If you don’t put in the work, it’s almost impossible to make it through practice,” he said. “There’s always a few guys who don’t always show up at our workouts in the summer. They figure it out.”
Getting prepared for the high school football season has become an arms race, and legs race. “Everyone wants to be better than everyone else,” McKee said.
East coach Bob Gaddis has reluctantly followed the escalation. “I’ve been doing this a long time and my first thought is that I think athletes need to have balance,” he said. “They need some time to be a kid.
“We have to be careful not to be too damaging on their time and pull them in every direction. It’s harder to be a multiple sport athlete these days and I think that is too bad. But we also have to do whatever we can to help these kids be successful.”
Being successful means keeping up with the Joneses.
North coach Tim Bless agrees with Gaddis. “It’s definitely a balancing act,” Bless said. “We’re very sensitive that the kids need time to be kids. I want multiple sport athletes.
“Plus, I think you can get to the point of diminishing returns. I want kids to be fired up for July 30. I don’t want them beaten down.”
Both the East and North players had busy summers in terms of football. East participated in a seven-on-seven camp in June and then later in the month went to the Bishop Dullaghan team camp at Anderson University. “We were the smallest school there,” Gaddis said. “Then we added a week of practice in June and a week in July.”
On July 16-19, East conducted its own camp. “We install our offense and defense there,” Gaddis said. “We can wear shoulder pads and helmets.”
Then there was the twice-a-week lifting sessions to go with some on-field work.
Because Indiana high schools do not have spring football, coaches are allowed to work with the players during the summer.
“We’ve been with our players 27 times this summer (as of last Wednesday),” Gaddis said. “The positive is that the kids are much bigger, faster and stronger. No doubt they are training better. The skill development for these kids happens earlier. But we do ask the question, ‘Do you want high school athletics to be fun?’”
North’s players participated in an on-campus camp the first week of summer vacation. “Our goal is to put in our base offense and defense,” Bless said. “Week 2, we went to Indiana University’s team camp for three days and seven practices. We did repetitions on the plays we put in the week prior.
“After that we had a normal summer routine, three days a week.”
Each practice included an hour’s strength training, an hour’s conditioning and an hour’s work on football skills.
When practice opens today, all that work should be worthwhile. “No question our upperclassmen know the value of training in the summer,” Bless said. “If a kid comes in without having done what we’ve done physically, he literally is going to be playing catch-up. He will have a hard time getting playing time.”
And those expectations might even be higher next season.
“Next year, the first day of practice is Aug. 6,” Gaddis said. “We might have to do more in the summer. It’s seems crazy, but you don’t want to cheat your players.”
McKee said he never has worried about practicing too much at any time of year. “I love the sport too much,” he said.
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