Building on the success of last season, this varsity football team used the unique opportunities of this season to work on building both team camaraderie and individual skills.
“It’s exceeded my wildest imagination,” said head coach Danny Smith of the effort and dedication that this year’s roster showed. “There’s been a lot of progress, a lot of support for one another, and a real determined work ethic that I have continued to be impressed by.”
Smith gave special credit to the seniors on the team, particularly captains Ethan Vashel ’21 and Ryan Sellew ’21, for helping to keep the team together during these exceptional circumstances.
For Vashel, just being able to play each day was enough to help build strong team chemistry. “It’s not hard to keep morale high when you’re doing something you enjoy with people you like to around,” he said. “Even without games, there exists a certain brotherhood that is unique to football and addicting to be around.”
Enthusiasm was high for this season after a 2019 campaign that saw the team win half of its games after going winless the year before. Having so many of the close games break their way gave the returning players a renewed sense of confidence and motivation for this season, said Smith.
“The returning kids were 100% committed to the idea that we can take the field with anyone and compete at a high level,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of positive energy.”
Certainly few other fall sports involve as much contact as football, and practicing under the circumstances required significant changes in approach from coaches and players. At the beginning of the season, the main emphasis was on conditioning and individual skill drills, said Smith.
One reason for the focus on conditioning was to help support the college recruiting process, added Smith. In a season without games, many colleges are focusing instead on players’ performance in some of the most popular conditioning drills.
In addition to on-field conditioning, the team also devoted one day per week to a team session in the weight room, a new wrinkle in the team routine from years past. Coaches have enjoyed watching the more experienced players bring the newcomers along, which has helped to build team spirit, said Smith. “It’s a fun way to bond with your teammates that maybe we didn’t give enough time to before.”
As the season progressed, the team was gradually able to open up practice to drills involving larger groups of players. By the end of the season, players were able to engage in 7-on-7 passing drills, still with no contact and no pads.
Whatever the activity, the focus each day was the same, said Vashel: “Get better every single day – have a better practice than the day before. Our expectations were for everyone to be bought into the team and put forth their best effort.”