Like a long-lost, familiar friend, J.J. Olivera and his GlenOak football teammates welcomed their sport back last week with the start of offseason team activities.

PLAIN TWP.  Like a long-lost, familiar friend, J.J. Olivera and his GlenOak football teammates welcomed their sport back last week with the start of offseason team activities.

Last week featured two team camp days, which consisted of walk-through sessions in which the coaching staff took players through different offensive and defensive sets, taking time to work through each aspect of those schemes and making sure that all players know their responsibilities on a given snap. The sessions operate at a slower pace because contact is not allowed, but also because coaches often need to stop the motion to address a specific player or ask a question to make sure everyone knows the proper read to make on a specific play.

“We’re just putting in basic plays and basic bread-and-butter stuff, like power and simple passing sets, knocking off the rust,” Olivera said. “The rest of the month, we’ve just got conditioning and lifting.”

The senior receiver, defensive back and kick returner is splitting his summer between football and baseball, so many days feature a full schedule with both sports taking up parts of his time. During the month of June, Olivera’s travel baseball team, GlenOak 18U, has more than 20 games, including a tournament in New York.

He enjoys both sports and wants to give his best to both teams, but having football back after several months away from the sport puts a smile on his face. Players can lift during the winter and spring, but that’s the extent of team activities during the latter half of the school year.

Getting back together with his football teammates jump-starts Olivera’s imagination when it comes to envisioning what his senior season could be.

“It gets me excited. Definitely I see the potential in our team and it gets me really, really excited … a lot of team bonding, a lot of connections … just showing we can work hard together and the blood, sweat and tears brings us together and shows we’re determined for the same goal and that’s to win the state title,” Olivera said.

His goal for the summer is to improve his skills and conditioning in whatever way is necessary to help the Golden Eagles contend for another Federal League title and playoff berth.

“For myself … just to better the team and help us reach our ultimate goal, to do what I can to help us reach that goal,” Oliver said.

Summer is a different animal than football’s regular season, with the bright lights and pageantry around games swapped out for sweaty training sessions, practice fields lined by water stations and lifting sessions. There is a certain rhythm and even a monotony at times to such sessions, but underneath it all runs a sense of purpose and focus driven by the fact that Olivera and his teammates know that not far away, their Federal League rivals are putting in their own work and trying to gain ground on the Golden Eagles.

The continual race to get better may not feature the same face-to-face battles as a fall Friday night, but that doesn’t lessen the competitive push.

While there are no games to get ready for right now and the normal excitement built in school by the season being underway is months away, the key to a successful summer is finding a way to motivate yourself on a daily basis, according to Olivera.

“It’s definitely harder because when it’s the school year, that means you’ve got games and you can look forward to the games, but in the summer you’re just working hard nonstop,” Olivera said, “You get after it early in the morning, which obviously not a lot of people like to just wake up and go do it, but that’s why it’s a special group of guys.”

Many days, early lifting and conditioning sessions for football are followed by a quick stop at home for a nap for Olivera, who sets his alarm in time to wake up for baseball later in the day to complete a busy 24 hours of sports. It’s a fun, albeit tiring, way to spend the summer. It’s also the training ground for what he hopes will be a successful senior season that takes he and his teammates where they want to go. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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