The Press Box: Remember August?
What do you think of when you try to name the greatest football coaches of all time? If you’re a seasoned fan, you may think of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi often pictured in black and white snapshots along the sideline with his famous toothy grin barking out orders. Or maybe you remember a tie wearing Mike Ditka in his well known Chicago Bears stripped sweater screaming at the media or his talented quarterback, Jim MaMahon. Maybe you think of bigger than life style coaches made famous in movies like “Any Given Sunday” or “Remember the Titians.” Whatever you picture the “tougher than a two dollar steak” type disciplinarian coach pushing his players to the edges of their endurance is fading fast in this modern day.
Enter the month of August. August is the hardest month of the season for high school football players. Today’s potential football players have many choices. They have options in not only what sport they are going to participate but often competing and enticing opportunities outside the realm of athletics. If a student athlete decides to go out for the football team, the sacrifices they have to make by giving up the remainder of their summer before school starts are big and for this choice, they are to be admired. I can remember as a player in high school hating every day of August but knowing that September was around the corner and thinking about those Friday night games under the lights kept me motivated. Ed Parson’s mentioned in last week’s Wetzel Chronicle’s Press Box the salt tablets players were given in prehistoric times. I remember them well, along with Vitamin C tablets the coaches gave us. The dreaded salt tablets were not a big favorite but the Vitamin C certainly was. I also can remember rolling down the hill as you entered Core Field as a conditioning drill. Not sure why, but I think the coaches thought it would make you tough. All it made me was dizzy. Ed also reminded me of the lack of water that was provided and intense practices were held in the heat. Things were very different in the 60’s and 70’s, and thankfully today’s coaches ease players into summer conditioning.
As a young coach, I couldn’t wait until the first day of August for practice to begin. As an assistant at Magnolia, Coach Cisar put a lot of effort into our practice schedules so that no time was wasted, and we moved through the agenda as he planned, trying to make it as much fun as possible. But I’m sure the kids hated it. The first two weeks were always the hardest for the kids; that’s when the conditioning session began. Occasionally we would get to run offense and defense, but mainly the first couple of weeks were all about getting the body in playing shape. Conditioning is something players usually dread, but will praise later in the season when it matters the most. The critical practices in August make or break a season. It is a no brainer that a 10 game season is going to take a toll on your body, and you have to be in shape to survive.
Knowing the importance of August for a squad, I checked in with area football coaches to see how the preseason was shaking out.
Tyler Consolidated Head Coach Ryan Walton was out of town this week, but kindly still took time to connect with me. He is hoping to have 30 to 35 players suit up for the Silver Knights, some with experience returning on offensive/defensive line. Coach Walton shared, “We will be leaning on seniors to be leaders for the young guys, and we have had a good turnout for lifting.” Although the Knights have a challenging schedule ahead, Coach Walton revealed his kids have been working hard. The Silver Knights have added new coaches Paden Morris, Chris Metz and Zach Heasely to their coaching staff. “They all bring good energy and knowledge to the program. We are looking forward to getting started,” said Coach Walton.
First year Head Coach Robert Price of the Paden City Wildcats is expecting between 18 – 20 players out for the start of the August season. “I am hoping to accomplish the initial stage of installing the offense and defense throughout the three week summer practice period. Along with building team cohesion and chemistry,” explained Coach Price. Many area Wildcat fans are anxiously waiting to see this team in green and white take the field. Last year’s incomplete season was disappointing, and the whole community is joining together to wish this new coach and team a successful debut.
And finally, I called on the head coach of the Magnolia Blue Eagles, who was once one of my own players, Coach Dave Chapman. I tease him now when I see him, because he was just a skinny kid when he took the field for me. If you don’t know Dave, he is well known today for his strength and body mass.
Coach Chapman is also expecting around 32-35 kids out, with a real good group of 12 seniors. He feels his kids will be ready August 2nd because of the OTA’s which stands for Organized Team Activities in which they have participated. OTA’s is basically individual work, technique work, some team work and some offensive and defensive installation. The team has two scrimmages lined up with Madonna and Valley on August 14th and RC Byrd on August 20th both away. Coach Chapman shared, “I like our team. We as a staff feel this is definitely a playoff team.” He will be disappointed if the Eagles are not in the field of 16 come November. Coach Chapman also likes their size and speed along with their versatility. His excitement about the coming season brings high hopes for the Blue Eagles.
I wish them and all area teams the best of luck, and I will be at as many games as possible.
I want to send one last shout out to the Sistersville Park and Pool managers and the park maintenance crew for their tireless efforts to get the park back in top form. After the pandemic closure, the park has never looked better, and I encourage everyone to go to the swimming pool or just go down to the park. This past Sunday the Picnic in the Park was held with the giant fireworks display. I hope you were able to attend and just see the hard work that’s taking place. You know how summer works. Before we know it, we will be dressed in our sweatshirts headed to a Friday night football game under the lights.