No pads, no pigskin … no problem. Given the workouts Newtown High School’s team members are going through it may as well be football season over at Blue & Gold Stadium, at the NHS back fields, and in the school weight room and gymnasium.
Members of the Nighthawks have been running, lifting weights, and participating in less conventional workouts — such as pushing Coach Steve George’s truck while he steers as part of fun-filled intrateam competitions — as they work out in preparation for September’s big kickoff.
After hitting the weight room throughout the winter, the players got back on the field for spring practices in June, then kept up the pace in the Newtown High School Football Team Training Program, directed by George, along with Cody Foss, director of SPEED Training at Newtown Youth Academy, and certified trainer and former Nighthawk gridder Max Nacewicz. Since late June, and continuing on into the middle of August, the nose tackles, quarterbacks, receivers, centers — everyone on the roster — get together for two hour-long sessions five days each week, beginning at 7 am.
“Obviously waking up at 6:30 every single day isn’t the easiest thing to do,” running back Cooper Gold said. “I think the best part is the team gets together.”
Some of the drills include traditional weightlifting — bench presses and squats — and nontraditional workouts with workout sleds and sledge hammers. They participate in move the mountain, a game in which teams of players race to move piles of weights or sandbags one by one, from one pile to another. Players put their speed, agility, and footwork to the test with stutter steps through ladders. They do resistance training by sprinting with parachutes. There are also tug of war battles. It all sounds pretty fun, but it’s also grueling, as the high school athletes go from one station to the next … to the next.
“It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work,” receiver Julian Dunn said.
The players know it’s all worthwhile as they’ll be that much faster, stronger, and prepared for those hard hits and attempts to gain that extra yard, or tackle a seemingly elusive ball carrier.
“It’s important that we stay in shape for when the season starts,” Newtown quarterback Drew Tarantino added.
Ultra-important in the mind of George, whose team is coming off a South-West Conference championship contest triumph in its third straight appearance in the title game, last fall. Once the summer program ends, the pads and balls come out, enabling players to work on skill plays and participate in contact drills in the final weeks before the first game. This program has been in place for a little more than a decade and is designed to help players in multiple ways.
“It’s important because they have to be in good shape. It’s important for their safety because they’re getting stronger and kids around them are stronger,” George said.
The workout sessions also give the coaches a feel for who they’ve got in the lineup, how each can fit in, and how much work they will need to do to get up to speed.
“It’s important to see who’s really committed and who wants to play, and who’s just here to get the uniform,” George added. “In most cases, these kids are doing a great job this year.”
“It’s easy to see, right off the bat, who wants to work and who we have to work with,” Dunn added.
So the team veterans — those who have been through this training in past summers — have to encourage some of their teammates. “The toughest part is getting everybody else motivated,” lineman Josh Krapf added.
What’s more, many of the players go on to workout after each morning session.
“This is just the base for our day,” Krapf said.
And the start for what the Nighthawks hope will be another championship run.