The MVRHS football field has been a busy place this week as head coach Donald Herman and his three assistants preside over an instructional summer camp for gridiron veterans and hopefuls each evening. The camp is the coach’s second since resuming head coach duties last season after a two-year hiatus. The upcoming season will be Herman’s 30th on the Vineyard sidelines. If numbers and enthusiasm are any indication, both the camp and the football program are thriving.
According to Coach Herman a primary goal of the camp is to “get kids’ mindsets on football. We want them to start thinking about the sport and their role on the team,” he said. “That includes becoming familiar with our terminology and our drills. We’ll be doing a lot of fundamentals.”
One indication of the excitement surrounding Day One was the early arrival of players. Thirty minutes before starting time a group of about 25 campers mingled on the field, stretching and trash-talking. Eventually 50 players would be suited up in helmet, shoulder pads and shorts for the camp opener, half of them returnees from 2018. Another 15 of the sign-ups are current seventh and eighth graders who will play junior high football this year.
As assistant coach Mike Cutrer explained, the numbers are crucial. “We need 45 players in order to field a JV team,” he said. “We could not field a JV team last year, which hurts the program. So we’re encouraged to see this turnout.”
Despite the no-contact proviso there was plenty of hard work to be done. Each session began with calisthenics and a demanding series of conditioning exercises called Agilities. These workouts were followed by group instruction and drills focusing on both offensive and defensive play. There was heavy emphasis on technique including proper stance, blocking and tackling form and smooth handoffs.
Players were also drilled on how to react in game situations. “We work hard on decision-making and reactions,” said Coach Cutrer. “To know what you’re doing in a game,” he said, “you first need to know what you’re doing on the practice field. We want kids to make smart decisions in practice so they’ll make them in a game.”
Towards that end, repetition was the theme. Linebackers and defensive backs practiced quick reactions to the ball; quarterbacks made instant decisions based on a defender’s movement; and offensive linemen determined whom they were supposed to block.
Whatever the activity, a constant flow of direction and encouragement from the coaches kept the players focused. The head coach doubled as funny-man, pulling up lame with a bogus quad injury on one occasion and tossing good-natured barbs at some of the veterans. The atmosphere was upbeat.
Senior Josh Pinto, a lineman and linebacker, explained the camp’s benefits for him. “It gets me in the mood for football.” he said. “The coaches have taught me a lot about my positions, about proper techniques. It’s fun to be starting camp again.”
The camp will close on Friday with a special guest speaker and other wrap-up activities. Then it’s a short two-week break before pre-season practice officially begins on Friday, August 16.