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High school football: Return to conditioning a welcomed occasion for coaches in Hall County
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Cherokee Bluff High football players go through conditioning drills on Monday in Flowery Branch.

It’s not football yet, but conditioning is the closest thing to it that we’ll see as the country eases past the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down high school sports since March 13. 

Monday was the first day fall sports athletes were able to meet and partake in Phase I of the return to conditioning plan, as outlined by the Georgia High School Association. 

Right now, there’s no clear plan to when the strictly-outdoor sessions will move to the next step with players and coaches in the weight room. 

“I told our players that we’ve learned through all this is that we can’t predict the future,” Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones said. “They know to be ready for anything. 

“Obstacles are just opportunities to get better.”

One silver lining to the pandemic is that football rosters might see a bump in participation, if the start of regulated conditioning is any indication.

“We had some more kids come out for conditioning because they’ve been cooped up for months and just hungry to get out of the house to do something,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said.

Sessions were limited to 20 players, which included coaching staff members, while players prepare to integrate the layers of football as they all prepare for the 2020 season. 

Here’s a sampling of what coaches in Hall County had to say about Day 1 of conditioning: 

Heath Webb, Gainesville

“This was a great day to reconnect with players after being apart for so long. We’ve done a lot of online stuff to prepare for this part but not seen each other in person. Right now, we’re focused more on the relationships that go with the game more that actual football. I was missing the people more than the game itself. (Monday) was just body-weight work, short distance running and some other things. We had 88 kids show up today and the ones who weren’t on hand, we knew where they were.”

David Bishop, North Hall

“Being around the kids was nice. The older kids were really eager to get after it, while you could tell there was some nervousness with the younger players, rising ninth graders. We can’t be in the weight room right now, so we divided it up into five one-hour sessions. We brought the mats and dumbbells out to the patio where we have our tailgates before the game. Right now, our focus is on conditioning and we’ll go from there.”

Ben Hall, Flowery Branch: 

“It was refreshing to see the kids back. Our attendance was outstanding. We have 96 kids on our roster and we had probably 88 or 89 in attendance today. We’re very gradually getting back. Each group was outside for about 45 minutes and focused primarily on linear-speed work. Right now, it’s all about the right logistics and following the procedures for conditioning that are in place and we’ll go from there.”

Tommy Jones, Cherokee Bluff

“It was great to see all the kids. We had about 70 players in attendance today total. It was good to be reunited and I feel like it was a productive day. We did primarily strength training and work with weights (on the practice field). I really liked the excitement and energy from the players.”

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