The official start of fall conditioning for football teams comes Friday, beginning five days of workouts leading up to when teams can actually practice in pads.
With the amount teams are able to do in the summer, from weightlifting and running to 7-on-7s, fall practices are more a continuation than a beginning. But the most exciting part for coaches is it means the fast approach of the first regular-season games (Aug. 22 for some teams and Aug. 29 for most).
“It builds excitement,” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. “It’s kind of like the countdown to Christmas.”
North Hall first-year head coach David Bishop is in his 14th season overall with the program. He said the busy summer schedule actually means the upcoming week offers more of a slowdown.
“For us, it’s just our kids adjusting. Our kids are very schedule-oriented,” Bishop said. “They’re used to doing things a specific way. We have to slow things down a bit.”
Bishop said the practice process becomes more prescribed, with water breaks mandated at certain points due to heat safety concerns.
Johnson coach Jason Roquemore said his guys are pretty acclimated to the heat from their summer work, but he doesn’t mind this slow period to mark the beginning of fall practice.
“You’ve just got to be safe,” Roquemore said. “And with the Georgia heat and humidity, it’s great that they have something in place.”
Riverside Military Academy coach Gary Downs said his team won’t be practicing today and doesn’t begin its fall camp until Aug. 6 because, as a boarding school, many of its players aren’t in town yet.
While the Eagles have participated in certain activities this summer, it’s been limited by the number of players on hand. Once camp starts, Riverside has the unique opportunity of having players eat all three meals together daily and focus on football alone before the school year begins.
“It helps us make up ground because we don’t have the benefit of having a June or July with all our players,” Downs said.
Bishop said the transition to fall is “different because you’re able to work with them all summer” than it was not so long ago. He said North Hall was aided greatly by having 100-percent attendance by returning players at voluntary summer workouts ahead of upcoming mandatory practices.
“It’s real important for us, especially when you lose 21 of 22 starters, those kids being here,” Bishop said. “There’s a lot to learn.”
Gray said the first five days are about maximizing time on the football field, rather than weight room work, as well as getting players’ paperwork handled.
Downs is looking forward to getting his full team on campus for the fall.
“We have a captive audience,” Downs said. “We’re creating a team at that point, teaching offensive and defensive schemes.”
Summer opportunities have added plenty of help for coaches and players, but it’s hard to beat what’s coming next.
“There’s only so much you can do in shorts,” Roquemore said. “They’re looking forward to it just as much as we are. They understand that the time is near, just looking forward to firing at it and getting started.”