Even before practice officially begins Monday, local high school football players have been hard at work for months.
For most of the teams, training almost never stops.
"We try to do as much as we can in the offseason, leading up to football," Chambersburg coach Mark Saunders said. "I'm a firm believer that it's not a four-month sport. It's really a 12-month sport, and it's a grind."
All the area teams have a weight-lifting program which begins almost immediately after the previous year's season ends. All five local public school teams - Chambersburg, James Buchanan, Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg and Waynesboro - all have a three-day per week lifting schedule.
Shippensburg and James Buchanan also take advantage of the one week of spring practice, which is sanctioned by the PIAA. During that week, the teams can practice with helmets and shoulder pads before the summer even begins.
Things begin to kick into high gear for football squads after school comes to an end in June.
Because of PIAA rules and because some kids work or vacation during the summer, all team activities are voluntary until two-a-days officially begin Aug. 13. But despite the voluntary nature of these workouts, the local teams feel they have dedicated individuals who are always getting involved.
"We try to get as many kids here as possible," Waynesboro coach Scott Shacreaw said.
Shippensburg assistant coach Kevin Gustafson said he thinks the reason people are so dedicated is because they know what it takes to compete at a high level.
"We have a solid corps of kids that have shown up, so we've had a really good turnout throughout the whole offseason," Gustafson said. "We have several solid athletes and several solid seniors who are coming back."
In addition to the weight-lifting program, which continues through the summer, local teams do more than just that.
Chambersburg and Greencastle each host a month worth of seven-on-seven tournaments, which are simply passing tournaments. Because everyone but linemen participate, the quarterbacks drop back and pass every time, giving the secondary a chance to go through coverages.
Most of the local teams participate in the four-day team camp hosted at Lebanon Valley College. Chambersburg is the exception - it travels to Bloomsburg University.
At team camps, athletes have a chance to work out with other teams as well as compete against them. In addition to seven-on-seven drills, there are also inside run drills.
Finally, there are 11-on-11 drills, which include helmets. In four days at Lebanon Valley, teams practiced a total of 10 times. At Bloomsburg, Chambersburg was doing three-a-days for a total of 12 practices over the course of four days.
In addition to seeing and practicing with other teams in the state, camps also give teams the opportunity to mesh together as one.
"Especially at team camp and any time that the guys can get together and work on football together, it builds rapport and strengthens the program," Gustafson said. "There are a lot of guys here who are committed to continuing with our success."
Conditioning vs. coaching
This is the area in which local teams differ slightly. While many teams have similar regimens throughout the summer, not all have the same approaches.
The Chambersburg and Waynesboro coaches both said they consider what they're doing mostly coaching and attempting to build a foundation upon which the season will rest.
"I'd say that it's a lot more coaching than it is conditioning, but at the same time, we feel that if we practice hard enough and fast enough, we don't necessarily need to condition as much," Shacreaw said. "That's the motto that we give to the kids. If they work hard, if they work 100 percent all practice long, we'll go lighter on conditioning, but we always do have some conditioning at the end of practice no matter what."
Saunders had a similar sentiment. He said that after just four days of official practice, teams have their first scrimmage. He said there is just not enough time to build a solid foundation, so he tries to do as much as possible in the offseason.
James Buchanan and Greencastle, on the other hand, put a great focus on conditioning, making sure athletes are in shape when the season begins.
JB's new coach, Andy Stoner, said out of the 89 extra workouts since the season ended, only about 15 were instructional time.
Shippensburg likes to take the middle ground. In addition to Ship's three-day lifting program, it also focuses on speed and agility for one hour each day to create a nice combination.
Building a team
Football is a sport in which one must rely on his team. It takes trust and chemistry.
Working out over the summer and spending so much time as a unit can really help build that team chemistry.
"Because we're in here working with each other, sweating, we're building a brotherhood," Waynesboro wide receiver Ben Petrie said. "We all have strengths and weaknesses. Some people's strength helps out someone else's weaknesses, so at the end of the day, as long as we're all on the same page and keep working together, I don't think there's going to be many teams that can beat us."
For first-year head coach Stoner, the summer, especially time at team camp, gave him a chance to understand his players better.
"Going to the Lebanon Valley camp really allowed us to get to know the players," Stoner said. "I know them from the classroom, but going to Lebanon Valley allowed us to evaluate how guys are going to fit. Just going up there and bonding as a team and talking and thinking and breathing football, it turned out to be a lot better than what I expected."
Some coaches, such as Greencastle's Chuck Tinninis, say they'd rather have kids work out with the team than as individuals, just to spark that team unity.
"It builds a lot of friendships, and a lot of good times are created in the weight room and in summer workouts," Tinninis said. "There are bonds there, and it just continues into the season."
With the summer nearing a close, the local athletes will take to the field for two-a-days on Monday before their first scrimmages on Saturday.
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or email@example.com.