Years ago, high school football players could relax over the summer vacation, taking a break from strict workouts and eating plans with the knowledge that a couple of weeks’ worth of two-a-days would whip them into playing shape.
Not anymore. Fitness is a year-round undertaking for today’s athletes, and almost every coach runs some form of offseason conditioning program during the summertime with the aim of having a team in peak shape for the season opener.
“We’re trying to get the kids in shape, keep them in shape physically for the game of football,” Franklin coach Chris Coll said. “It’s not like the old days — we’d come in the last two weeks of the summer and try to cram in all that conditioning.
“You’re working year-round, and we’re conditioning throughout the summer to keep kids in pretty good shape.”
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Helping Coll with that task is Franklin strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Hart — who also helps plan the conditioning program at Indian Creek through his gym, JoCo Fitness.
Eli Moore, a former Franklin College football player who now works for Hart at JoCo, helps Braves coach Brett Cooper implement the offseason program, which is generally the same as Franklin’s.
The Braves lift weights three days a week and do speed and agility training on Thursdays.
Of course, football gets mixed in as well, and the area’s coaches do that in a variety of ways. Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher does two and a half weeks of hardcore playbook implementation right after school ends, and then spends the second half of June focusing on speed work. After the one-week moratorium period in early July, when workouts of any kind are prohibited, the Warriors spend the rest of the summer focusing on conditioning.
“Good athletes, good players want to get pushed,” Fisher said. “So we’re going to push them.”
By concentrating the football aspect of the offseason in early June, Fisher is attempting to give his players a mental break from the game before practice officially starts July 31.
“I really don’t want to make the season longer,” he explained. “I don’t want it to be, ‘Football still?’ I want it to be, ‘Football, yay!’ ”
Avoiding fatigue — both mental and physical — is important to the coaches, who know that having the players in peak shape is even more important in October than it is in August.
“I think you’ve got to pay attention to that; you don’t want to peak in July, obviously,” Franklin coach Coll said.
Once practice starts, Franklin football players shift to focusing on the game.
Like many of his colleagues, Greenwood coach Mike Campbell tries stay flexible in terms of scheduling and attendance, since several players are either playing other sports in the summer or working a part-time job.
“The burnout’s in the back of our minds,” Campbell said. “We don’t want to burn the kids out. We want them to take it seriously and be focused, but we feel it’s really important that they’re still high school students and high school kids and it’s enjoyable for them.”
Weekends are also off-limits for conditioning in Greenwood, because some players also play travel baseball or AAU basketball.
“For us, it’s important that they’re multi-sport athletes and they get to experience high school athletics as much as they want to,” Campbell said.
Campbell also is offering his Woodmen a bit more autonomy. In a first this year, the team’s Wednesday conditioning drills are being run by the players instead of the coaches.
Last year, the team conducted those workouts in the evening and attendance was lower due to scheduling conflicts. Quarterback Seth Gallman suggested morning workouts run by the seniors.
Campbell and his staff aren’t even there to watch, a show of faith in the players’ ability to monitor themselves.
“Sometimes, they’re a lot harder on each other than we would be as coaches,” Campbell said. “So I think that’s been a great benefit.”
“We have some people who know what we’re doing, a couple of three-year starters,” senior defensive lineman Nick Young added. “So they’ve kind of entrusted us to do it ourselves.”
Every coach has his own approach, one that he believes works for his team. Regardless of how each one goes about business, though, the aim for all of them is the same.
“You want to have four-quarter players as best you can,” Hart said. “We want to be fast last or stronger longer.”
Each of Johnson County’s football teams will play a scrimmage on Aug. 11, a week before the official season opener. A look at who plays where:
Center Grove vs. Arsenal Tech;6 p.m.
Franklin vs. Roncalli;7 p.m.
Greenwood vs. Columbus North;7 p.m.
Whiteland vs. Terre Haute North;7 p.m.
Indian Creek at Greensburg;7 p.m.
Edinburgh at Covenant Christian;7 p.m.