Football is no longer a fall sport. It’s become a year-round devotion.
Most teams began offseason workouts for the 2013 season in December, only a few weeks after last season ended.
Sure, there are a lot of athletes who play basketball and then baseball in the spring, but those who aren’t involved in another sport are expected to build strength for the next football season.
Where summer weights once were strictly a voluntary endeavor, such workouts have become mandatory in the sense that, if you want to play on Friday night when the fall arrives, the coach had better see you on weekday mornings in June and July.
Still, there’s something special about the first day of practice, which arrived Monday for high school football teams across Kansas.
“It’s still special, because this is the first official day,” Bishop Miege coach Jon Holmes said. “During the summer, there’s baseball tournaments and basketball, but we knew once the calendar flipped to Aug. 19 it was football only until November. I know the coaches are all excited for that and the players are excited to be out here again.”
The Stags, who reached the Kansas Class 5A state championship game last season, arrived on campus before sunrise to get the season underway with a morning conditioning session.
“It was early, but it was exciting to be back out there with the guys and start working toward a state championship,” said Miege senior wide receiver/cornerback McKinley Johnson who lives in Grandview, Mo., and woke up well before 5 a.m. to make it to the Stags’ morning practice. “I want to get a ring before I leave.”
Shawnee Mission West got its ring last season.
The Vikings won the Class 6A state championship for the first time since 1985. It was the first football crown in 27 years for any Shawnee Mission program.
Still, the SM West program hasn’t changed, said coach Tim Callaghan.
“We’re approaching like every other year and want to get better every day,” he said. “We know that we’re not the same team that won state last year. Every year is the same for us in that respect, so we’re not going to rest on our laurels by any means. We know we got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of teams vying for a state championship and we’re one of them.”
The pads won’t come on until Thursday, so there wasn’t any hitting — mostly basic drills and running, lots of running.
It’ll be that way for a few more days, but it still felt great for the players to have football back.
“I’ve had a long career at Miege, but there’s a lot of excitement coming into this year,” Miege senior linebacker Brad Ivey said. “It was cool getting out there this morning at 5:40 even though it was pitch black. Being around all the guys in their helmets it was a different feeling than we’d had all summer.”
Last season, the first day of practice was the start of a journey that led both the Vikings and the Stags to state championship games.
Finally, the grind to get back there again officially has commenced.
“To get 109 guys here by 5:30 this morning means they were all a little excited,” Holmes said. “They were all here and working hard. We’re all very excited to get this season started. Our kids coming back know that it will take a lot of work to get back where we were, but they also know what it feels like to get there.”