Come Monday, Aug. 3, Valley View athletic director Curtis King doesn’t anticipate being very well rested.
King doesn’t get much sleep the night before the official start of high school football, and after all that has gone on the past several months, the anticipation from the entire Eagles team is peaking.
“This year, it’s kind of different for a whole other purpose,” King said. “These kids have kind of been in a box since March 13. This is the first time they’re able to do something as a team. They need this. This is where they want to be and they’re committed to it. Their past six months have sucked and they deserve a chance to play and I’m excited for them.”
King said it’s more than just football that he is looking forward to seeing his athletes enjoy.
“I think football teaches you stuff about life from commitment to dedication to being a team player and working hard,” King said. “You have to take failures with wins. Even now, it’s more important because they’ve gone through six months of not getting to do what they want to do. Football is a teaching sport and they learn about life just from being here.”
As far as the final week of workouts before the start of two-a-day practices, King said Monday’s practice went well and he thought this week will be a good warmup.
“It’s probably the lowest numbers we’ve had with kids on vacation, but the kids you want to see are here,” King said. “The kids that you think are going to step up and play a certain role are here. We want to finish doing the skillset training, so we’ll probably do no team workouts this week. We are introducing more stuff as far as pass routes and we thought we’d rather do that instead of throw some other stuff on them. I hope it makes Monday a lot smoother with two-a-days. That’s the plan.”
With the University Interscholastic League announcing last week that Class 1A through 4A would be able to begin the season on time, King said he is glad the season is finally about to start considering all the uncertainty that preceded it.
“I’m happy, but I’m more happy that the kids are here,” King said. “With all that is going on, they kind of have a built-in excuse for not showing up and they’re showing up. I’m more excited about that than anything else whether it’s 25 practices or 10 practices.”
Several aspects of next week’s practice will be different from past years and King said he and the coaches will be ready to bend around any necessary protocols.
“We’ll have protocols more than what the UIL is asking us to,” King said. “We’re just trying to be as safe as possible and that’s as much for them as it is for us coaches. We can’t have as many kids in the locker rooms. We’ll have a process in place so they’re not in there all at the same time and it’s more work on us as coaches, but it’s about keeping them as safe as possible. A lot of stuff has to change.”
One of those areas of change will be the inability to use the water cow — the large water dispenser that players can all use.
Now, they’ll have to have their own water bottles and King said he knows he’ll have to take it one day at a time.
“I tell the coaches that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” King said. “They may throw something new tomorrow. It’s going to be one of those years where you’re going to have to be ready to change at the spur of the moment.”
King said the athletes are close to where he wants them to be and that they are in shape. The focus the past few weeks has been on the offensive side of the ball.
“I feel good about the offense and we haven’t done a lot of defensive stuff because the defense hasn’t changed from last season,” King said. “We put a lot of new stuff in on offense and we haven’t changed a lot on defense. We just have new people doing it, so we think we can teach that pretty fast.”
The Eagles will have six returning starters on defense and four on offense. King said he wishes he had them all back from last season’s state semifinal team, but he feels good about the players that are returning.
“When you have five or six kids coming back, that’s a head start,” King said. “I’ve been impressed because this group of seniors is probably more communicative than the group that just left. There isn’t quite the leadership on the field yet, but as far as helping the younger kids, these kids have been vocal and helping them through the process.”
There are a few things that worry King about the next few weeks, including a potential change or announcement from the UIL, but he isn’t overly concerned about what he can’t control.
The top priority for the Eagles is preparing for the first game of the season and the first district game.
King said he knows the coronavirus will make practices different, but he doesn’t want that to be a main focus for the athletes.
“We want to make it as normal as we possibly can,” King said. “Anything related to COVID, we want to be a side piece of it. We moved up to a bigger classification and a tougher district with a harder schedule, but we’ve just got to get ready for that. We’ve talked about it from day one. Either you step up or you don’t step up.”
When Aug. 3 hits, it will be a whole new level of energy for the Eagles and King said he thinks they will be ready.
To make sure they are, Valley View is taking Tuesday, July 28 and Friday, July 31, off.
“It will be charged up on Monday,” King said. “We’ve been pretty low key lately, but Monday we won’t be teaching quite as much. We want to make sure their battery is charged and ready for Monday because it’s tough. It’s a long practice. We practice fast and up-tempo. Some of these kids haven’t quite moved that much.”