published Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Gossett blog: Prep teams' Labor Day practice plans vary


by Holly Cowart

Today represents a step back in time for many area high school football players.

They're going back to the early August days of morning practices because of Labor Day.

"We'll practice in the morning — keep getting them up so they won't get lazy," Brainerd coach Stanley Jackson said.

One of the earliest practices will be at 7 a.m. CDT at Sequatchie County.

"We always go at 7 on Labor Day," Indians coach Chad Barger said. "That keeps the family happy because it allows family time and gives the kids some time to be kids."

Grundy County won't be far behind.

"We hope to be finished by 9:30," Yellow Jackets coach Nick Bryant said. "However, if a player is going out of town with the family, we let them miss without holding it against them. We just ask the parents to call or come see us before they leave."

New East Ridge coach Tracy Malone is giving the Pioneers the day off.

"Normally we'd have an early-morning practice, but we have a bye on Friday," he said.

Ditto for Ringgold, at least as far as having no practice.

"A day off on Labor Day. Kind of ironic, huh?" Tigers coach Robert Akins observed.

Walker Valley's going at 8:30, Red Bank, Tyner and McMinn Central at 9, and Central and Lookout Valley at 10. Ridgeland and Polk County also are practicing this morning.

Calhoun and Grace Academy are breaking the trend, though. Calhoun will go at 6 p.m. and Grace at 7.

"This should allow for families to have extra time but also accomplish our goal to be ready for Friday night," Grace coach Bob Ateca said.

Calhoun's Hal Lamb said he will let the freshmen have the day off.

Ooltewah is bringing players in at 9 for meetings and practice, and coach Shannon Williams said he hoped to have practice completed by noon, but he also has plans for the freshman and JV teams to have their games at noon and 2 p.m. to make those games a little more special.

Baylor, Bradley Central and East Hamilton are sticking to normal practice times, and Bradley has a JV game this afternoon with Soddy-Daisy.

"We're trying to keep the kids in a routine," Baylor coach Phil Massey said.

Rhea County coach Doug Greene is doing the same, adding that his team would have a JV game with McMinn County this evening.

I just can't let it go. Most of these kids' dads would have been practicing today and looking forward to their first day of school on Tuesday. My, how times change.

Do you realize that many of these teams already have played three games and that the regular season for the Tennessee teams will end on the last Friday in October?

• Here's a quote from TSSAA assistant director Matthew Gillespie on Aug. 17 being the official first-game day for Tennessee schools:

"Until the mid 1990s all games started on Week 1. But when Week 0 was introduced, it slowly caught on, and each year more and more schools played Week 0. And now about 85 percent do. I think an accelerating factor in teams wanting to play Week 0 was when the NFL started having open weeks and high school coaches started to think, 'Well, we need an open week also.' There is also the issue of easier scheduling of games (in theory) that coaches believe Week 0 helps them with."

(And the extension of the TSSAA playoffs to five weeks had nothing to do with it?)

"If you look back 15 years, you will see that more and more school systems are starting school earlier and earlier," Gillespie said. "This again is related to the trend to give fall and spring breaks to school teachers, staff and students.

"I think the combination of the movement by teams to play Week 0 along with school systems starting earlier and earlier has created a residual and unnoticed gradual movement of earlier start dates for all sports. I suspect this trend will continue as very gradually school systems are moving to have shorter summers and more time off during the school year."

(Oh, yeah, I'm sure in an age when both parents work that a whole lot of parents are thrilled with that idea.)

"I don't think sports are causing this earlier play date shifts, but it is the changing of school calendars that is doing it," Gillespie said.

So change the school calendars, which is something I'm not sure even an act of Congress could accomplish. I think it was tried in the Tennessee house and died there because of the number of school systems that began whining for exemptions because their calendars had been set and were "impossible to change."

It's hotter in August than June, and baseball coaches (and I'm sure softball coaches) complain often about their short season and having to play in mid-March when evening temperatures still plummet into the low 40s or even the high 30s.

Yes, I have discussed this point previously, but I don't believe you will find a single football coach in Tennessee who likes having football games in August. Most would play no earlier than the Friday before Labor Day, and many would prefer to wait until the Friday after.

• Not much in the way of surprises last week. Most of us knew that Cleveland had at least a 4-in-10 chance of beating Ooltewah, and most knew that Bledsoe's chances at Signal Mountain were less. Surprised that Ensworth handled McCallie so easily (47-10), that Red Bank had such a tough time (19-7) over East Ridge and that Soddy-Daisy didn't at least get on the board in a 35-0 loss to Bradley Central.

• If I was just going to watch a game this week (as in not working and just going for the football), I'd probably consider East Hamilton at Bradley Central, Tyner at McCallie, MBA at Baylor and definitely Calhoun at Dalton. If you want to see a hard-nosed, throwback-type football team, it would be worth your while to scoot down to Chattanooga Christian to watch Polk County at work.

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