Athletes put in many hours throughout the year

Monday was the first official day of practice for the fall sports teams. Coaches and athletes are working hard to get ready for the coming season.

But just because this is the first week of practice doesn't mean the teams are just getting organized. Many of the teams, not just fall, but winter and spring sports, worked hard during the summer months trying to get ready for the coming year.

Back in "the day," off-season workouts were not that common. Student-athletes might go to a summer camp, and if they were really excited about the coming season, they might gather and play. For basketball, Coach Merv Sheplee would come and unlock the gym two nights a week, and the basketball players would come in if they could for an open gym. There would be a few teachers, some recent graduates and the current players. Sometimes we would have enough to play on two courts, but usually it was enough for one court. We'd play up to 21, take a break, then start over again, then after a couple hours, it was time to lock up the gym.

For football, the weight room (which was located in "The Pit," which was the basement locker room in the 1926 building), was open every day during the summer months. Coach John Bush encouraged the players to work out a few days a week, and the players would usually time their workouts together. Then, come August, it was time for "Captain's Practice," which was about an hour or so of running around and throwing the football, with a few drills that were run by the captains. It was really just a chance to get together and maybe start getting in shape for when the real practice started in mid- August.

The Trojan wrestlers have had an open gym practice for most of the summer, and squad members attended a team camp at Concordia College in Moorhead. They have also gone to other communities to workout with wrestlers from other schools. Some of the wrestlers have competed in summer tournaments, either in folkstyle, freestyle or Greco-Roman competition.

Compare that with how things are now. In the 1990s, the Minnesota State High School League removed the ban on summer coaching. Coaches can now work with their teams starting in early June until the end of July, with a week off during the Fourth of July week. The practices cannot be mandatory, but they can be grueling. In some sports, the teams will play in leagues or tournaments. There are often conflicts between sports for multi-sport athletes, and with jobs and vacations for the players, but it does give the athletes a chance to work on their skills and conditioning.

In the 1970s, there weren't as many sports offered and girls sports were just getting started, so there wasn't the demand for gym space and fields like there is now. I mentioned the weight room earlier. That has changed as well. The old weight room consisted of a Universal Gym set-up, with multiple stations. About eight people could work on the various stations at a time, which was just fine because "The Pit" was pretty small and couldn't fit many more than that. Today's high school weight room is much larger and has many more stations, as well as free weights. The weight room is also supervised by paid coaches who get students involved in the BFS (Bigger, Faster, Stronger) Program.

In short, many of this year's student-athletes at New Prague High School put in a lot of hours during the summer months, since the end of last season, preparing for the upcoming season. We wish them well as they begin the season, and know that they will represent their school and community well. Good luck to all.

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