NORTH CANTON  Class wasn’t back in session for the Hoover Vikings on the final day of July, but senior receiver Brady Nist and his teammates still had learning to do.

It was the first day of two-a-days and as head coach Brian Baum and his staff gathered dozens of players on the turf (and adjacent practice field) at Memorial Stadium, a large chunk of the day for the upperclassmen was devoted to watching and analyzing different formations and situations.

“We started out with our individual defensive coaches and learned some new things,” Nist said. “We did some pass/run reads and had some seven-on-seven stuff where the younger guys lined up in different formations and we analyzed each play.”

Those drills had the underclassmen going through different game situations and settings players could see in a game and coaches barked out directions on how to handle each one, what the correct response was and how to read what happens on the field once the ball is snapped.

List, who primarily plays wide receiver, was also focused on learning the “bandit” position, where he could see a few snaps on defense this season if starter Will Reisinger needs a break.

The position is most similar to an outside linebacker spot, so Nist has to know his reads and responsibilities at the position in the event he’s needed to fill in.

Another big part of two-a-days is conditioning. It’s long been a central component of the early days of football’s preseason at all levels, but the nature of conditioning as it relates to two-a-days has shifted some over the years.

It’s a change illustrated by conversations Nist has had with his father, who played at GlenOak.

“Our coaches are really good to us when it comes to staying hydrated,” Nist said. “Back when my dad played, if you needed water, then they usually thought that meant you were soft or weak.”

Players still need to get in shape for the season, but because most are lifting and conditioning either on their own or with teammates during the offseason, they have a much better chance to come into camp in better shape - as long as they’re diligent in their work from December to June.

It’s similar to the way spring training in Major League Baseball has become less of a time for players to round into shape because working out, training and nutrition have helped make the offseason more of an extension of in-season fitness. On the first day of two-a-days, Hoover players did a drill in which they ran one 40-yard sprint for each quarter of every game this season and at the end of each group of four - which represented a game against a specific opponent - they yelled out the name of the opponent those sprints corresponded to as a way of reminding themselves why they were running.

The day was a long one, consisting of seven hours of practice time and even for the best-conditioned players in the group, it was enough to walk off the field with plenty of fatigue and soreness.

For Nist, that meant a trip to the cold tub, a place he doesn’t visit often but knew would be beneficial after such a long day of working out.

“I don’t do the cold tub too much, but after seven hours, my feet were killing me and my legs were pretty sore, so I knew they would feel a lot better if I did the tub,” Nist said.

There figure to be plenty more chances for cold tub recovery time in the days and weeks ahead. Two weeks of two-a-days are on the schedule and beyond that, the coaching staff will determine whether a few more days of the same schedule are in order or whether they want to transition into the next phase of the preseason. With the first game of the season now less than a month away, time becomes an increasingly valuable commodity and every chance to learn, understand and improve is essential as the Vikings try to improve upon their 5-5 record of one year ago and return to the upper echelon of the Federal League in what is sure to be another hard-fought league race this fall.

Right now, it’s all about learning and sweating - not always in that exact order. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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