In some ways, New York’s high school football teams are getting back to normal.
But even ‘normal’ takes some adjusting to after a season that was anything but.
Yes, after playing an abridged spring schedule, New York is slated to play a regular fall campaign, with an extra week of regular season play bringing the schedule to eight weeks. But before going all-in this summer to start preparing for the fall, some coaches thought their players needed a break.
Salamanca coach Chad Bartoszek, for instance, is offering a normal summer routine, with “three or four scheduled workouts, but our weight room is open throughout the morning, every morning, so kids can come in.”
“We do host a couple voluntary practices for the kids twice a week,” he said. “Then we try to do the passing (7-on-7) nights with other schools throughout the summer. That’s pretty typical of most schools around, and then everyone tries to pick up a tournament here or there.”
But many athletes are coming off an unprecedented high school sports schedule, from basketball in the early months of 2021, to football in April, to a full spring schedule (including wrestling) running through the last week of June. So Bartoszek said he understands that many needed to decompress.
“I would love to tell you that we are going full-bore, but quite frankly our numbers are down a little bit and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing right now,” he said. “In our case, we (also) had a sectional championship lacrosse team. So a large number of our players were playing all the way through the end of June. And coming off of multiple sports crammed into just a few months, they just needed a little breather, including the coaches, we’ve all taken a vacation week here or there.
“I’d love to give you some big rah-rah speech about how great we’re doing, but right now I would say we’re easing back in. We’re offering a full schedule but we’re giving these kids a few weeks to enjoy their summer. Probably within the next week or so we’re going to start pushing more and more to get these kids organized. But right now I think they’ve got to chill out a little bit and just be kids. It’s still good for them to get in the weight room and things like that, but we’re not over-organizing right now.”
WITH FOOTBALL still fresh in returning players’ minds, Bartoszek doesn’t anticipate having to spend as much time this summer installing the playbook.
“The summers are typically for programs to begin the strength and conditioning aspect but also to start installing for the fall,” he said. “In our situation this odd year, we just got done with that, our kids just went through a whole season. To bring certain kids back, I just picture kids who just went through all that and all of a sudden we’re going over and over and over again. We have a jump on that, I’m not as stressed about getting our scheme in this summer where usually in the summer I am.
“Now this doesn’t make it less important, I think this month in particular has been a little slower and we’re hopeful that things pick up in August.”
Football practice officially starts Aug. 23, a little later than in previous years. But by the start of August, the Warriors should be busier with those workouts.
“We’re offering a lot of normalcy, but we’re giving the kids a chance to chill out a little bit and do their vacations,” he said. “I’m hoping that maybe starting next week or so, especially August, these kids start getting football back in their system and want to be more involved. We do have a few more things scheduled in August just to pick that up a little bit.”
AT PORTVILLE, coach Josh Brooks met with his team this week to go over the Panthers’ ‘Earn Your Stripe’ program.
“We did have to modify (it) slightly because usually we can start earlier in the spring,” he said. “But with all sports being pushed back, essentially kids just get points for going to a weight room session, 7-on-7, offensive lineman workout, open practice — we have a speed camp we do as well — and then if they play any other sports throughout the school year they earn points that way. We do the weight room Monday through Thursday. It’s starting to get back to normal, I would say.
“A part of the meeting ... was ‘the pandemic is nearing its end, let’s still be smart about it, but we need to get back to work.’ With graduating 16 seniors, there’s a lot of opportunities for young players coming in the fall. They should be excited about that. We’re excited for another new era (to start).”
BROOKS AGREED his players needed a break after school let out this summer.
“We knew the kids needed a break from sports, from school, from learning online,” he said. “It was a lot, especially in Portville where we did go five days a week. Our kids worked their butts off all year. We had opportunities for them to lift , but we weren’t going to harp on them, we were going to give them a few weeks, get into July and that’s why we just had our meeting (this week).
“They were tired, they were exhausted, they were strained and overwhelmed all year. So we’re happy to be back and I think the kids kind of got a sense (that) we’re almost back to normal. We were able to get on the game field after our meeting and have a one-hour open practice and did a couple basic things to get ready.”
Portville typically plays in 7-on-7 at Bolivar-Richburg, Salamanca and Olean on various weeknights.
As July winds down, Brooks said the Panthers will need to get their younger players ready to step into big roles.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have that many (returning players),” he said. “We’re bringing only two starters, maybe two-and-a-half, three. There’s a lot of guys that played, especially special teams, they did get reps in practice, but the game reps are much different.
“We’re not going to change a whole lot with our whole offensive line gone, our quarterback, our top-two receivers, our top two running backs. But we had some young kids play last year just to make sure they were ready for this year. We brought them up as freshmen in the spring to be ready for their sophomore years to play quite a bit.”