SPRINGFIELD TWP. As the soccer world winds down its World Cup fun, Josh Lininger and his Springfield teammates are ramping up their summer work.
A month of the 32 best teams in the world vying for soccer glory in Russia has been exciting and the tournament is set to run through mid-July, which coincidentally is when Lininger and the rest of the Spartans will be getting into the meat of their summer slate.
"Right now, it’s just been open fields. Starting next week, we’ll go Monday through Thursday with conditioning," Lininger said. "We meet at Young School from 3:30 (p.m.) to 5:30. We start out just getting our bodies warmed up and then we do whatever drill the coaches have for us. Usually, we’ll scrimmage for 30 minutes - 15 minutes per half."
Getting a fall sports team together for summer conditioning can be an educational experience for a coaching staff. Because Ohio High School Athletic Association rules limit when and how much teams can have organized activities during the summer, there are stretches when athletes are on their own and if a team doesn’t have activities for a long stretch, when conditioning starts back up, some players come back having not spent as much time working on their fitness as others.
That lack of conditioning shows up quickly when drills begin and for a senior such as Lininger, past seasons underscore the importance of staying in shape as much as possible.
"We’ll do Indian-style runs throughout the week and push ourselves, but nothing so tough that it leaves us in a lot of pain," he said of the team’s typical conditioning challenges.
The World Cup has been a topic of conversation within the team, although due to the schedule for June consisting entirely of open field sessions at which not everyone can be present on a consistent basis, most of the chatter has hinged on two team members who are Serbian and therefore have a strong interest in how their nation played in Russia.
Unfortunately for them, the Serbian team didn’t advance past the group stage of play at the World Cup, but enjoying the experience of rooting for their nation in the tournament is something their American teammates didn’t have this time around.
As conditioning work ramps up, it signals the approach of the season and the need to start figuring out the team’s composition and who slots where on the pitch. Having been on the varsity roster most of his high school career, Lininger has a good idea of where he fits, but he and the rest of the team know they need new faces and contributors in the mix if they hope to have a successful season.
Head coach Mario Mattioli and his staff will spend the next few weeks evaluating and trying different players in various spots on the field, seeking the right mix to open the season and hopefully, to carry the Spartans further than they went last season.
The program has has some strong seasons over the past decade, including one with memorable tournament wins over geographic rivals Coventry and Manchester, but last season was a tough one and the returning players are eager to bounce back and show that they’re headed in a good direction.
To that end, the month of July is the launching point and the time when they lay the fitness foundation they’ll need to sustain their efforts over the course of the season.
"Pretty much July is about getting in shape, grinding through it and getting your body moving. As July goes on, we figure out more what positions everyone can play and then we start to get into scrimmages a week or so into August and you find out where your strengths and weaknesses are and where you can put certain players on the field," Lininger said.
Those scrimmages are also a first chance to see how the team stacks up against other squads and get an idea of where its ceiling may be for the year ahead. There may not be millions of eyeballs on those contests the way there has been for the World Cup, but Lininger and his teammates are nonetheless excited to start preparations for their own chance to shine and see if they can’t deliver a few memorable victories of their own this fall.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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