Paul Valencia: For players, early August is time to do it yourself

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Coaches? We don't need no stinkin' coaches.

OK, maybe we do need coaches in high school sports, but August is a great reminder that the games are for the athletes, not the coaches.

photoPaul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com. Follow him on twitter @360paulv

Football practice begins Wednesday, but that is just the first day of official practice for the fall season.

Teams have been practicing for much of the summer, starting with spring drills, then team camp and 7-on-7 competitions.

However, when the calendar strikes August, coaches are no longer allowed to organize any football-related activities until the first day of practice. They can open weight rooms for training. They can supervise conditioning drills. But they cannot put on a scrimmage. They cannot bring out the tackling dummies. They cannot, well, coach football.

This year, that means there is a 20-day window for the players to be on their own. That does not mean it is a 20-day break, though.

There are no rules against players coaching players. There are no rules outlawing players motivating teammates, to get their work in to prepare for the season.

Earlier this month, I found athletes from Camas, Mountain View, and Union working out on the field that was originally built by Nautilus in east Vancouver. This was not some pick-up game, with wide receivers going deep every play, begging for a pass, screaming "I'm open! I'm open!"

These were real workouts, 7-on-7 drills. No coaches, but there was plenty of coaching. Player to player.

There was Camas' Reilly Hennessey throwing touchdown passes, and Camas' Jorden Payne intercepting passes.

Camas and Mountain View were fine-tuning their plays, trying to exploit holes in the competition, trying to improve on their own weaknesses.

"It's a lot more relaxed than actual practice. It's laid back, but we still have time to work on stuff," said Eddie Richardson of Mountain View. "It's all about just getting the team together. It's fun to throw the ball around.

"And it's a lot better than sitting at home and watching TV."

Union's Nolan Henry said: "All of our guys have been working hard. We're getting great numbers at all of our workouts."

Football players are not the only athletes who practice on their own. All elite high school athletes understand there is no offseason. The best of the best must always be working on their skills or playing another sport, making sure they remain active.

Early August, though, is the time when an athlete could, in theory, get away with taking it easy.

There are no coaches, no practices on the schedule.

It is all on the athlete.

The best of athletes accept that challenge.

"It's time to get better," Richardson said.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com. Follow him on twitter @360paulv