Friends. Floridians. Sports fans — I come bearing good news:
Football season is back … sort of.
As I sit on my throne — aka my large, cushiony chair — watching the Alabama A-Day game, I soak in the spring football goodness that the sports gods have bestowed upon me.
Sure, regular-season football doesn’t start for another four excruciatingly long months, but at this point in the year, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love all sports with a passion — my TV has been showing MLB all afternoon — but there’s something about football that just does it for this good ol’ Southern boy. And I’m not alone.
Those in the local high-school football scene have been waiting for this moment since the postseason ended: It’s finally time for spring football.
“We are all kind of excited that football season is back, man,” said Olympia head coach Travis Gabriel. “You know we are a week away from the official start day of spring practice. I know a lot of my kids are excited — they’re ready to get back — and coaches are excited and ready to get things rolling.”
Olympia will get in its one spring game against Orange City University at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, but it’s really those practices beforehand Gabriel is anticipating the most.
The game itself is just kind of the icing on the cake — so to speak — for the players. It’s a reward, and a break, from hitting one another and offers a real-game experience.
But those practices — that’s where the real work gets done, Brown said. It’s the place where coaches get to see if a player has the drive to take it to the next level.
“We are all kind of excited that football season is back, man. You know we are a week away from the official start day of spring practice. I know a lot of my kids are excited — they’re ready to get back — and coaches are excited and ready to get things rolling.”
— Olympia head coach Travis Gabriel
“The practices are always what it’s about, that’s why colleges come during the spring, they just come during the practice,” Gabriel said.
That mindset is shared by coaches throughout the area, including those at Windermere Prep.
Although the Lakers have had their own spring games over the last few years, this year, head coach Jacob Doss decided to not play in a game. Instead, his focus is solely on the practices.
“Every year, we focus too much on the game as opposed to practicing — which is what spring is designed for,” Doss said. “I’m excited to just kind of practice every single day, worry about us and not have to game plan for a spring game. … We’re (only) worried about us in the spring.”
Both Doss and Gabriel are looking forward to the spring season. It’s during this time when the new guys are taught proper techniques, while the older guys put in more work to perfect those same fundamentals.
“We think we’ll get more out of practice — we’ll teach our practice, we are going to teach our system,” Doss said. “And we had a really elite class that just graduated, so we have a lot of young guys stepping into roles. A lot of guys played significant minutes last year, but we are going to redo some things. We had a very mobile quarterback last year, and the kind of kids who are competing for the job right now are a little bit more pocket passers.”
Earlier, I mentioned a lot of the coaches said the spring game was mostly for the players, but there is an aspect tailor-made for coaches, too. There’s nothing that can prepare an athlete more than playing against another team in a real-game scenario. It also will allow coaches such as Gabriel — who has eight new coaches — a chance to also see how the staff fits into the puzzle.
Will the outcome actually count? Nope, not at all. But will it allow a coach to see how a team and his players can compete? Absolutely.
“For those who have not ever played a varsity game up to this point, (spring football helps get) them used to the preparation of the spring game,” Gabriel said. “(It’s) getting used to practicing for several weeks and fine-tuning their abilities and getting better. I probably speak for every team in that we all want the same — we want our kids to be better when we are done with spring than what they were when they started.”
For those who — like me — are now a tad bit more impatient for the start of football after reading this, hold steady and take a deep breath: We’re almost there.