When fans think of two-a-days, the images that come to mind are often of players sweating out sprints in the hot summer sun, looking to get in shape for the season ahead.
But before players can put on their helmets, do their up-downs and try to earn a spot in the starting lineup, their schedule for each day has to be plotted out. That’s where coaches come in, sitting down in small football offices with their various colored dry erase markers in hand and agendas at the ready.
“Really, you put it on the whiteboard, you talk to your offensive coordinator and your defensive coordinator and see how much time they need,” Coventry head coach Ed Egan said. “You try to figure out what all going to put in the first day, the first two days and what do we stretch out to the next week.”
Egan reflected on how in recent years, he and his staff may have front-loaded two-a-days too much and tried to install too much of their offensive and defensive schemes too early on. This year, the game plan going in was to reduce installation in the first week and in the process, cut 15 minutes or more off each practice session. More installation would then be shifted to the second and third weeks of two-a-days.
Springfield head coach Kevin Vaughn is one of the area coaches looking at the same issues when it comes to time and scheduling. After the Spartans delivered a strong finish to the 2016 campaign, there is positive momentum around the program and now, the question is whether Springfield can convert that momentum into a strong start this fall.
“Obviously, all the regulations set forth by the OHSAA come into play when it comes to planning,” Vaughn said. “We know we need to work on four phases of the game, so we’re working on breaking down practice to where we are equal focusing on offense, focusing on defense … special teams are not as equal in practice time and conditioning, we need to make sure we put our conditioning into each practice to know our kids are prepared for four quarters of football.”
Teams were allowed to begin two-a-days on Monday as they looked ahead to their season openers later this month, but before they can kick off the season, they’ll have to dive into scrimmages that gradually ramp up in terms of formality and seriousness as the season nears.
Coventry’s first scrimmage is schedule for Aug. 13 and it will offer the first serious glimpse into where the team stands as it winds its way through the preseason. At the outset of camp, the coaching staff sits down to plot out its schedule for two-a-days to maximize efficiency. Egan meets with his offensive and defensive coordinator prior to camp and discusses what each of them wants to accomplish during camp and how to structure the schedule to make the most of each session.
By making the second week of camp more of a review than an installation time, the plan is to spread installations of new plays and sets out and possibly cut practice time by half an hour.
“We want to make sure we have time in the weight room, time for special teams … do we do conditioning at the end, or make them tired and condition first,” Egan said. “We put it all on the white board with our offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator and put it in an order that fits us and our staff. We have a couple of guys who have outside jobs that aren’t teachers, so we have to find what works for them.”
Not only do some coaches have outside jobs, but Egan estimated that 75 percent of Coventry’s players have summer jobs and in order to make the practice schedule work for as many as possible, coaches have to be aware of the time demands on everyone.
One tactic that helps, Vaughn said, is to have a plan in place well before the whistle blows to kick off the first two-a-day session of the summer.
“We meet on a consistent basis and all of the coaches have input. We have an offensive and defensive group that sometimes meet on their own and we’ve been mapped out for the whole summer, so the month of August is all planned,” Vaughn said.
Weather is also a factor for two-a-days, whether it’s Coventry, Springfield, Green, Manchester, Lake or any of the dozens of other teams in the area preparing for the season. The summer heat is one major factor, but occasional storms can also drive teams inside if there is lightning or the rain is too hard. When heat is the major factor, staying hydrated is a focal point even more than normal.
This year, Coventry is adding a third water trough at the 50-yard line in addition to one at either goal line. Additionally, players are allowed to bring their own water jugs to carry around from drill to drill and Egan jokingly wondered if it was because they “don’t want to run all the way over to get to a trough.”
Before the first scrimmage, Coventry coaches want to install some of the formations, gadget plays and goal line plays they’ll run this season, but more will be added between scrimmages and the final week before the season will see the final addition of any remaining plays that will be available to use in the opening game.
At Springfield, making the most of two-a-days also hinges on knowing where players are at in terms of conditioning coming into camp.
“A lot of that starts in January when we start lifting, but it’s hard in the summer because weather plays a huge factor how kids perform during practice and it’s hard to simulate a game during practice,” Vaughn said. “We like to have an upbeat practice, but it’s hard to script everything … you try to get as many reps possible for when it comes time to play a game.”
Once viewed largely as a grueling, physically draining means of getting players in shape, two-a-days still retain some of that gut-check-time factor, but as lifting and conditioning have become a year-round pursuit, more of the weeks leading up to the season can be spend on other areas. Still, the end goal is the same: winning as early and often as possible once the games begin.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB