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To practice or not to practice in the summer? That is not the question for high school football coaches.
The real question is when to use the 10 coaching days that are allotted by the OHSAA prior to the start of official team practices on Aug. 1.
Some coaches use all or most of the days right before the first official practices, while others spread them out through the summer. Coaches try to do what they think will work best for their team.
Triway coach Tony Lee has evolved from using all his coaching days late in the summer to taking advantage of several right away. He wants to set the right tone for the additional summer workouts the players hold themselves.
"We held two camp days the first week of June," said Lee, who has most of his team back from a 9-3 Div. IV playoff team a year ago. "We also had a 7-on-7 passing scrimmage on June 19 against Oregon Clay from up by Toledo, which my brother (Mike) coaches.
"We want to put in our offense early on and go over our passing game and add any new stuff. Our linemen break off with assistant coaches and do work with them, too. That way when (senior quarterback) Parker (Carmichael) and the rest of the receivers go out and work on things themselves, they can coach themselves."
The Titans have several more 7-on-7s scheduled, including July 16 at Mansfield Madison, July 19 at Oregon Clay and a multi-team competition at Bucyrus July 26.
While Wooster coach Doug Haas doesn't use his coaching days right off the bat in June, he likes to stretch them out through July rather than tacking them on just before official practices begin in August.
"I try not to make it an extension of two-a-days because those are hard enough as it is," Haas said.
Haas will use his first few days to teach his offensive and defensive systems, taking the Generals to a passing scrimmage at Twinsburg, where Ravenna and Tallmadge will also be. The following week, he'll take them to a team camp at Ashland University for a 7- on-7 against Waynedale. In his third year at the helm at Wooster, it is the first summer he's taken his squad to a 7-on-7 competition.
"I'm usually against those because people try to win those and I just want to see kids compete," admitted Haas, who has a bunch of skilled players back from a 4-6 team last year, but will have to replace a veteran group of linemen who graduated. "If you're the champion of the 7-on-7 tournament, it doesn't have a whole lot of meaning. What I do like is you get a lot of different teams there and you see a variety of schemes."
For Haas, the difference between scrimmages and 7-on-7s is there's more opportunity for coaches to step in and coach during scrimmages.
"Twinsburg is more of a practice opportunity," he said. "As coaches, we can stop and correct things and use those as teachable moments. That's the biggest difference between the 7-on-7 tournament."
Like Haas, Waynedale coach Matt Zuercher opts to spread out his coaching days in July and use the early ones to jump-start his offensive and defensive schemes, then try them out at Ashland against Wooster.
"It's a carryover for the schemes, especially in the passing game," Zuercher said. "We also want to see the kids compete. You start to find out who's going to fight and who's not."
More than anything else, though, Zuercher looks at coaching days as the first opportunity to establish a strong team dynamic.
"The biggest thing is building camaraderie and trust with the coaches and players," said Zuercher, whose team has many returnees from a 6-4 year that make the Golden Bears one of the favorites in the Wayne County Athletic League. "That foundation is laid in those hot sweaty days in July and the teams that build that are the ones that are successful."
Smithville's Brent Besancon and Kevin Maltarich, on the other hand, use their coaching days at theof July as a lead-in to camp.
Technique is the biggest aspect Besancon stresses during coaching days. Besancon has the Smithies slotted for a couple 7-on-7 competitions, but admits those aren't as much of a priority for his historically run-oriented squad as it is for other local teams.
"You don't have pads on, so you want to see footwork," said Besancon, who returns most of his team from a 1-9 campaign last fall. "You want to see kids get lined up and how their feet and hips move in pass defense. On offense, it's all about driving home fundamentals."
When asked about his philosophy on extra coaching days, Maltarich said, "I wait until the very end.
"I want those extra days to be a springboard into the season," he continued. "I don't like making kids have to choose what they're gonna do if you hold them any earlier. June and early July are times when a lot of kids are playing summer baseball or basketball and a lot of families take vacations then, too."
Maltarich is taking his team to an overnight camp at Ohio Wesleyan for three days at theof July, during which time they'll practice three times a day.
"I like to have us get away and really focus on putting in the offensive and defensive systems that we'll use," said Maltarich, whose Knights lost several key playmakers off of last year's 6-4 team, but also return a nice mix of experienced players. "Last year we went to Ashland University. We'll also use two other practice days for 7-on-7s."
Maltarich believes the five coaching days he'll use will be more than enough to jump-start official practices.
"When you do it so close to two-a-days, the kids remember it," he said.