The sounds of squeaking shoes and coaches’ whistles could be heard as all the local fall sports’ teams in the state of Missouri stepped on the court or field in the first official regular season practice on Monday.
As most coaches say during their first day of practice it brings a sense of optimism and hope as coaches and players dream about what their season may bring in the way of championships and titles.
“There’s just something about the first days of regular season practice that is exciting,” Perryville softball coach Dustin Wengert said.
But teams had to deal with what Wengert called the “first real day of summer in Missouri.” Heat indexes rose to as much as 105 degrees on Monday as coaches were forced to spend less time on the field, and more time making sure all the paperwork was in order.
“We spent only about 30 minutes on the field,” Perryville football coach Blane Boss said. “The rest of the time we made sure physicals and things like that were turned in. I really didn’t think it was too bad, of course I wasn’t out there running around, so I didn’t feel it as much. However, we’ve had a pretty mild summer until now.”
But other coaches felt the heat the moment they stepped out the door.
“I felt it at 7:30 a.m. and was like wow,” Wengert said. “It was just dry air and you get out on the dirt and try to water it, and by the time I watered one side, the other side was dry already. It was warm, but it’s something that we need to get used to at some point, and we will probably do it in small increments.”
Teams around the area such as Park Hills Central football and others set back their practices until later in the evening,
St. Vincent football has spent much of the summer practice from 6-8 p.m., and they continued that pattern on Monday.
“It’s something we have done all summer with many of the coaches working during the day,” St. Vincent coach Tim Schumer said.
Each player began practice for their respective fall sports before the school year even began this week after a long summer and try to regain the form they possessed during the camps and workouts over the last three months. But for sports like football, that can’t go full pads until later in the week because of a state mandated rule, it’s all about teaching the fundamentals.
“We just went back to the basics with our offense and defense,” Schumer said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff since day one of the summer and just wanted to refine it and tighten down what we need to do from a fundamental side. We are just in helmets for the first couple of days, so we just want to make sure we are taking the right steps forward on the first day.”
“It’s hard to see what the kids can do without pads on,” Perryville football coach Blane Boss said. “So we have been working on our footwork and the small things that will make us better down the road, until we can get the pads on.”
But with the start of fall practice, coaches like Boss and Wengert are no longer their laid-back summer selves, but not right on the first day, at least in the case of Wengert.
“That intensity will probably come about Thursday or Friday,” he said. “I don’t think you can just flip a switch. I think as a coach you have to recognize, nerves or rust , because these aren’t professional athletes out here, they will make mistakes. But as the season gets closer, I may get a little more agitated with some mistakes that we thought we had ironed out. But for coaches to be Mr. Laid Back and then start hollering on day one, the girls see that as fake and see right through it.”
Whatever the situation, coaches won’t let their teams look too far ahead, but take it one game at a time, especially after just the first day.
“We can’t look ahead to Week 5 or the districts,” Boss said. “Week one is the most important game on the schedule right now and that’s how we have to treat it.”