Riverside Academy’s football players were out early Monday morning on the first official day of fall practice, but for the Rebels, it was basically an extension of what they had been doing for the past month.
“We are just kind of going to extend the summer (workouts) until we have a little bit more clarity on when we are able to play. We get on the field some and we’ve been able to get some install throughout the summer so I feel we are in a decent spot to be able to start practice but I just want to wait until we have a bit more clarity before I go to the next step from what we can do,” said Riverside coach Kevin Dizer.
That’s just part of what has become the new normal everyone talks about in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s kind of completely different but it’s up to us as coaches to try and make it as normal as possible. You’ve got to keep (the players) in two static groups of 25 so you can’t mix and mingle your kids. We will split our skilled players and our bigs,” the second-year coach said.
After having a week off from summer workouts, the Rebels returned to practice Monday going through plyometric conditioning drills and weightlifting.
“I’m just getting them reacquainted today so it will be just speed and agility and then in the weight room,” Dizer said.
Putting on helmets and pads will come a bit later.
“The next time we will practice we will put helmets on. It will be good for the kids to get acclimated to that. You can also put on shoulder pads in three days. I don’t want to say it’s pointless. It would be good to have the kids get acclimated to have pads on, but still, it’s contactless football as well. It’s certainly different,” said Dizer.
The start of school at Riverside had been pushed back to August 31. Teachers report to work next week, so the Rebels will move practice time to regular school-session workouts.
“You will see us out in the heat next week, which is good for the kids. They really need that heat acclimation period,” Dizer said.
With so much uncertainty, keeping players motivated will be a major task for coaches, according to Dizer.
“You just have to let them know we just have to keep training in hopes we have a season,” the Riverside coach said. “That’s real difficult on them. It’s difficult on me as a grown man, so I only imagine the anxiety you have as a kid, especially a senior to train and not know (if there will be a season).
“Imagine practicing for two months and not knowing if you are going to play. That’s a real difficult thing to do to keep kids wanting to practice every day not knowing if they are going to play or not. I think from a mental standpoint, it’s the smartest thing we can do. From a physical standpoint, it keeps our kids fresh until we are ready to go.”
For a pair of seniors, the self-motivation comes from wanting to move forward as an extremely young Rebel football team went through a losing season a year ago.
“This year, it’s a lot better in terms of team chemistry and all of us coming together and pushing each other,” said senior offensive tackle Colby Wilson.
“This year, I really think these boys are committed. I feel like we came together as a team. We don’t have that ‘young’ excuse anymore. They know what they are getting themselves into and ready to go to war every Friday,” said senior receiver Tairyn Lockhart.
Unlike past years, nothing is likely to be taken for granted by the current Rebels.
“We learned last year that things can get cancelled really quick. It’s the senior year for most of these guys and they are ready to play,” Wilson said.