The first week of football practice for the Lindsay Knights has been filled with enthusiasm and concentration.
The first day of practice, the Knights were waiting on the field for the coaches to show up to officially begin the season.
It’s that type of buy-in that has Lindsay head coach Jeff Smiley encouraged about how the season will go while also ready to start putting more responsibility on his team.
“Sometimes you’re having to have to hustle them out of the locker room, but these kids were ready to go Monday morning,” Smiley said. “It was one of the better first-day practices I’ve ever had. We have plenty of stuff to work on for sure. We expect things to be done right and at full speed. If you do make a mistake, it isn’t the end of the world, but you better make it full speed. Overall, we’re the third year into our program and our practices have been really smooth
and have flowed really well.”
Smiley has been coaching for 29 years and he echoed the athletes’ excitement for the first week of the season. Patience is important this time of the year, but knowing the first scrimmage and game is just around the corner has Lindsay fired up.
The summer was fruitful for the Knights for both conditioning and understanding the playbook, but now that the season has begun, practices are much more serious.
“We’re getting to practice football now,” Smiley said. “It’s here. We’ve been waiting all spring and summer. We had a bad taste in our mouth from how the season ended last year and our kids were motivated to have a good offseason. They’ve put in a lot of hard work this spring and summer and they’re ready to put that hard work to use.”
The tone the Knights set in the summer was also important to carry over to fall football and Smiley said that attitude is not developed overnight.
“They know we have very high expectations and that the bar has been raised,” Smiley said. “It was a nice season last year and we won the district, but we got beat out in the second round. We want to be a team that consistently plays in December. That’s what we aspire to do and you have to put in the work and have that accountability from the coaches and the kids.”
The Knights will get to full pads next week and Smiley said he thinks the younger players will have to go through a transition period, but the older players are aching to start hitting each other.
“When you put the pads on, now it becomes the game of football,” Smiley said. “There’s a physicality to it and sometimes everything you’ve been taught goes out the window. Things start to become more of a habit and you learn to cut loose and play, but that takes time. When you get the pads on, that’s when you really get to play the game. Contact is why you play the game.”
Smiley said these first few weeks are the hardest part of the year because there is no opponent to prepare for and that having an implementation schedule for practices is key to help keep everyone engaged.
“You’re limited in everything you can do and you’re trying to throw everything at them and expose them to a lot of different things,” Smiley said. “It’s the hardest part of the year on the coaches and kids, but when you have an opponent, you have a plan and it’s hard on the linemen because there is only so much they can do. You try to keep them on their toes and keep them sharp.”
It can be difficult to instruct and not overload players with too many schemes or plays, so Smiley said striking a balance is important this time of the year.
“We’re lucky because we have a veteran group and they have experience,” Smiley said. “They understand the scheme, but it’s the younger kids that get overwhelmed from a technique standpoint and the terminology is sort of the same, but I told them to keep chugging and to keep getting a little bit better each day and that they would figure it out.”