Although the Georgia High School Association had set aside at least five days of practice starting July 25, those days were spent focusing on conditioning and getting players acclimated to summer-time temperatures.
For new Harrison coach Marty Galbraith, these early practices are as much about getting players acclimated to conditions as they are about executing fundamentals.
Although Galbraith had the option to practice in full pads Wednesday, he chose not to.
“Next week, we may start with shoulder pads Monday, Tuesday and gradually build to it,” he said. “After four to five days, we’ll have a scrimmage, maybe 10 to 15 plays live. You build up until you are ready for your real scrimmage.
“That’s just the way I think you ought to do it. You can do anything you want, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do things in full gear when it’s a completely different thing. You can work on speed work and all kinds of stuff over the summer.”
Like Galbraith, the coach of Harrison’s Due West rival said he wanted to get his team ready for the conditions, but said that Wednesday wasn’t so bad for his team.
“Our kids committed a great deal of time and energy over the summer,” first-year Kennesaw Mountain coach Andy Scott said. “From a standpoint of heat-related incidents, our kids have worked so far that I didn’t think that was an issue. We took our necessary breaks at the appointed times. But, for the most part, I didn’t think it was an issue. But (today), it could be different. I think most teams that spend time conditioning during the summer — it’s not as big an issue.”
For Galbraith, Scott and Cobb County’s other two new coaches — Walker’s John East and Pebblebrook’s Tommy Macon — Wednesday was the first time any of them could see their players line up and run against one another in full pads.
For Scott, that meant putting his team through a full scrimmage on the first day.
“Obviously, we went through spring practice,” he said. “That was a lot of new stuff and intensity there. (On Wednesday), we kind of came out and threw our kids in the deep end to see if they could swim. Our entire offense and defense is installed. We scrimmaged. Sometimes, when you teach kids to swim, you can either throw them in the deep end or get them in the shallow end. But we stuck them in the deep end.
“You do a lot of teaching. Then, it’s live and in color all of a sudden. It’s different when someone is lined up against you. I thought our kids responded well, especially for the first day, working as hard as they did.”
Being able to practice in full pads is a transition from summer conditioning workouts, passing camps and 7-on-7 tournaments. While those things do help prepare the players, there’s nothing that can simulate football better than strapping on the helmet and putting on the shoulder pads, according to Scott.
“I’m one of the guys that doesn’t really like 7-on-7s because that’s not real football,” he said. “Real football is blocking and tackling, and if you can’t do that, then you’re going to be in trouble. Playing in pads (Wednesday) was a real difference-maker for us.”