I remember when, by Doug Reeder
Sunday, 19th August 2012 - 7:44PM
It’s an annual rite of passage and something that ties us “old-timers” in some small way to today’s current crop of players. It’s something that every high school football player, current and past, has had to endure at one time or another. Two-a-days got underway all across the state on Monday morning. Some area schools even held their own version of “Midnight Madness” in order to get a few hours head start.
Back in “the day” (as I like to tell my boys) we really had it tough. We endured a full blown two or three hour practice in the morning. This was followed by a break when we would go home, try to eat something, take a nap, and be back on the practice field in the baking sun at around 6pm for another two and a half to three hour practice. And, we only got a couple of water breaks during each session. Those water breaks were a sight to behold too, with all the players jostling around a pvc pipe with holes drilled in it like pigs at a slop trough – the skinny underclassmen playing the role of the runts of the litter and poking their heads in wherever they could to lap up a few drops of water before the whistle blew.
Practice meant full contact as well – full pads, full speed, full effort drills. I will never forget our coaches’ favorite drill “bloody ally”? Bloody ally was a somewhat sadistic ritual which entailed lining up a bunch of hormone ravaged teenagers on each side of a three yard wide “ally” where two blockers, two defenders and a ball-carrier lined up and went at it like a bunch of crazed honey badgers. There was nowhere to run, there was nowhere to hide – eat or be eaten as the saying goes. Bloody ally is where you earned the respect of your coaches and your peers.
Today’s two-a-days are quite different from what we old-timers had to endure. Today there are no water breaks with pvc pipes. Instead, most schools, even smaller schools, have at least a half dozen student and professional trainers circulating the practice fields with water bottles and highly efficient “cows” for the athletes to drink from. Players are allowed and, in fact, encouraged to drink as much water as they need, and to get that drink whenever they need it.
Nowadays, full contact drills are rarities, replaced by “thud drills” in which defensive players are not allowed to take offensive players to the ground. In fact, it’s even quite rare to see a team practicing in full pads more than once or twice a week. Instead players wear helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, sometimes with girdle pads under their shorts. The days of two full contact practices in one day are over.
Now the UIL has stepped in with their own rule changes which go into effect this year, limiting the duration of practices and limiting the amount of times a team can practice in pads. The UIL requires a four day “acclimation period” which consists of one practice a day followed by a walk through in shorts and tee shirts. Following the acclimation period, teams may not practice twice a day on any consecutive days.
Lest I sound like someone who is giving today’s coaches and players no respect for operating under this new norm, let me say, these changes are (for the most part) changes for the better. There is nothing more important than the safety of the student-athletes. As much as we old-timers may find pride is reminiscing about the old days when two-a-days were “real two-a-days” there is no denying that the practices are safer and safer is better. Under these new rules, coaches and players will just have to find a way to work smarter and not harder.
Meanwhile, we old-timers can have the satisfaction of knowing that we endured some of the toughest practice conditions conceivable. Of course, I’m sure to our kids it just sounds like the old “I walked two miles, up hill, both ways” routine. But, it’s true. Chalk one up for the old-timers.
By Doug Reeder