Editor’s note: We asked Jackie Howell to go behind the scenes and find out what a football team does during the week and just not on Friday Nights …
Viva Loudoun Intern
(Oct. 18, 2013) – You’ve watched them from the stands. You’ve read about them in the paper. Now get to know Stone Bridge High School’s varsity football players from inside their world. Where the sweat, the endurance, the pain and, sometimes the disappointments, all meld to fuel their single motivation – to win and prove they are the best.
So, read on and learn about “a week in the life” of Stone Bridge’s finest.
Day 1: Monday
4:00 PM – The Initial Huddle
The varsity players quickly arrive from classes and early release to dress out (no pads) and meet head coach Mickey Thompson outside of the stadium. Thompson starts the pre-practice huddle by going over the previous game; he commemorates standout players and talks in depth about the plays and the overall performance. After reliving the success of the previous game, he pumps the young men up so they’re ready to get to work.
4:15 PM – Warm Up and Begin Practice
After warming up, the players split into groups and begin “every days”, a strenuous conditioning workout that probably feels as painful as it looks. The workout involves blocking and agility exercises such as suicides (just typing this makes me cringe), blocking against the blocking sled, and ladder drills. Once “every days” are finished, the players take a much needed water break and split into offense and defense groups. The offensive line continues blocking drills with the sled while the centers and quarterbacks warm up on their own. The centers practice snaps with weighted footballs and the quarterbacks begin to warm up their arms. After a half hour, the team begins to walk through plays with one offensive and one defensive period, with the assistant coaches and Thompson aiding both sides with pointers and technique adjustments. The practice ends at 5:30 PM with a spirited huddle.
Day 2: Tuesday
7:00 AM – Yes, It’s Early
While the rest of Ashburn is slowly waking up with the sunrise and grabbing their morning “cup ‘a joe”, Stone Bridge’s players are already in the weight room pumping iron. Going in I had a mental picture of sweaty players lifting to Metallica … and thaw was surprisingly accurate. The Bulldogs use the flexible weight schedule to work on their pull downs and presses, as their fellow teammates pass a couple of grunts benching way past my body weight.
“Lifting in the morning’s nice because it’s laid back; I get to do what I want to do,” Senior Nevos Tyler said.
4:10 PM – At It Again
The team comes out with full pads and begins to warm up and start practice. The players start with suicides (yep, those again) and then begin the “ring of fire”, a man on man tackling exercise that distinguishes which players have the brawn to play the game. The team is huddled in a circle and supportively cheering. After an hour, the team cheers on the kicker as he practices his extra point and then splits into offense and defense lines once again.
“Tuesday is the most challenging day because it’s the longest and hardest day with drill work and no breaks,” Seniors Sean Friedman and Josh Berg said. “It’s the time that players are competing for positions.”
Day 3: Wednesday
4:30 PM – A Slight Break in the Start Time, But Not the Intensity
Practice is the same as on Tuesday. The players warm up and split off into offensive and defensive lines to work on technique and play calls. What’s plain to see at each practice is the ceaseless support and excitement that the players give each other. Every workout is followed with screams, high fives, and enthusiasm.
Day 4: Thursday
7:00 AM – It’s Still Early
Lifting in the weight room with the same routine as Tuesday.
4:10 PM – End of Week Practice
After warming up, the team goes into the stadium to do “walk throughs” – in-depth positioning where the team walks through each play call in order to make sure each player knows where to go. Walk throughs begin with the kickoff return and first down, then punts and extra point. Throughout each play, Thompson talks through where each player should be and what the young men should expect from the other team. Once the kicker finishes with the extra point, the team moves onto offense and defense. The offensive plays are practiced multiple times so that each running back and receiver gets to thoroughly canvas his route. During the walk through, the rest of the team is huddled around and keeping the energy high.
5:00 PM – Almost There
Once walk throughs are finished, the players change and meet in the cafeteria for the pasta dinner. The team says a prayer to do well in the game and for the food they get to eat. The anticipation of the next day’s game is written on each player’s face.
“Aside from Friday night, my favorite day of the week is Thursday because of the pasta dinners and run throughs. At this point everything is set,” Berg said.
Day 5: Friday
5:00 PM – It’s Time
The players pack their gear in the bus and get ready to play the game they anticipated all week. The energy is palpable as the exhilaration of the stadium lights loom closely.
6:55 PM – Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose
The team comes onto the field for warm ups. Now is the moment that everyone in the stadium’s been waiting for… It’s time for the team to show the cheering crowds why they sacrificed, why they drove themselves so hard all week.
“Friday night is my favorite because it’s game time, the chance to test yourself,” Friedman said.
7:30 PM – Kickoff
Read my weekly column to get the scoop on what happens here…
Day 6: Saturday
9:00 AM – Little Sleep for the Finest
Win or lose, the Stone Bridge players come in weight room early Saturday morning to lift and watch the film of the previous night’s game. The players analyze the film to see what happened during the game, highlighting good plays or seeing what went wrong.
This glimpse inside the “week in the life” of Stone Bridge Football shows that, for the Bulldogs, there is almost never a day off.
Jackie Howell is a Viva Loudoun intern and senior at Stone Bridge High School