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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)
"Work ethic" is a popular term used by football coaches to describe how eager a player is to endure the preparation for an upcoming game or season.
There are plenty of incentives to inspire it, from winning games, to earning a starting spot to earning a possible college scholarship. And generations of football players have been willing to sweat their free time away (to varying degrees) in order to achieve all three.
Can adding a bit of convenience or fun to the mix hurt?
Modern weight rooms, indoor practice facilities, field turf and high-tech scouting apps are now dotting the Texas high school football landscape.
Practicing in inclement weather can now be avoided indoors at some locales. Film study can now be done at home instead of a projection room. And, depending on the school, weight training no longer means dirt, rust and no air conditioning.
In short, having a good work ethic is becoming easier every year.
"Even adults, when they walk into our indoor (facility) it brings out the little kid in them," said Snyder coach Cory Mandrell, whose program possesses both an indoor practice field and one of the top weight rooms in the Big Country. "There's just something about an indoor football field that is exciting.
"And our weight room definitely doesn't hurt our numbers. It gets the kids excited to be in there. We've gotten a lot stronger and I think a lot of it has to do with the kids liking to be in there."
While football players have been lifting weights on their own for decades, it often occurred in dingy environs with little innate appeal.
Such facilities still exist all over the Big Country, but they're quickly disappearing. Colorado City has a new weight room with roughly $70,000 worth of equipment; Brownwood recently has added power racks to its facility, and Early wants an upgrade of its own.
"They did a great job with the cosmetics of it and it really makes our weight room pop," Brownwood coach Kyle Maxfield said. "When you get new stuff it amps your attitude up, but it improved the functionality of it too.
"We're able to do more exercise in a shorter amount of time so it had two purposes."
Football isn't the only beneficiary.
In Colorado City, where many of the female athletes didn't use the old weight room, they are now regulars to C-City's modernized facility, which is not only stocked with new equipment but is easily accessible.
"Our (former weight room) was kind of old and dirty and not connected to the gym," Colorado City coach Dan Gainey said. "The guys have enjoyed the new weight room. But having it connected to the gym has really increased the girls programs utilizing it, which is something we wanted to happen.
"So overall, it's helped out tremendously."
Convenience has also changed the way film study is conducted, making it far easier and more effective than it was as recently as 15 years ago.
Scouting software, which allows for coaches to quickly exchange game tapes over the internet instead of driving hundreds of miles to an "exchange point" has changed the entire equation.
Film study was once a tedious task that required players to be at the fieldhouse. It can now be done multiple times a week on a player's phone or laptop.
"There are a lot of things that have been revolutionized over the years - better equipment, better helmets," Maxfield said. "But the ability for kids to watch (game tapes) instantly on their phone has revolutionized the game more than anything else.
"The game is played at a higher standard because of the evaluating that you can do - not just the coaches, but the players themselves. Most Saturday mornings we all watch film as a group - coaches and kids. Nowadays, 95 percent of the kids have already watched the game at least once before we meet at 8 o'clock in the morning the next day."
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