One of the interesting things about this trip is seeing the different ways of doing thing that I’ve have never even considered. Like most things, I suppose, football is full of a million little things that are done the way they are just because they’ve always been done that way. For example, 99% of the football programs in the country practice after school. As a coach, it never crossed my mind to do anything else. Unlike this norm, Aledo practices before school every day.
They start every school day at 7:20 AM on the gamefield as the sun rises over the east endzone (yes, another oddity is Aledo’s east-west field) practicing through their morning athletic period. Shortly after nine all the student and coaches rush to their respective locker rooms, shower, change into civilian clothes and begin their school days. There are several advantages to morning practices; most obvious is staying out of the hottest part of the day. The past two days were some of the first since I’ve been in Texas where the heat wasn’t something to overcome and fight through. At eight in the morning the sun beating down isn’t an issue. The start time also allows some coaches to focus on the JV and freshmen afterschool while the varsity meets with other coaches to fine tune, lift weights and work on special teams. Hard to prove, but I’m also guessing the boys are more focused and fresh in the morning than after sitting in classrooms all day.
The uniqueness of Aledo’s practice procedure doesn’t end with the early start time; the atmosphere is relaxed yet focused and crisp. Over the stadium loudspeakers a mix of a dozen country and classic rock songs plays in a loop, small groups of players stretch in circles around their position coaches who use this time to reinforce their teaching. The scoreboard is preset for different intervals anywhere from 2 to 12 minutes specific to the needs of the coaches. 2 minutes for water and transition, followed by 9 minutes for inside hull vs. the 5 minute uniform segments most programs use to organize their practices. The tempo is quick, without being overly physical. Technique is stressed, filmed and critiqued in afterschool film sessions.
Everywhere I’ve been, people have wondered about how Aledo would be in the post Jonathon Gray era. I know he’s an outstanding player and I’ve been told, a great young man. But when players like him come and go people seem to forget that football is the ultimate team sport and the system that Mr. Gray excelled in is still plugging along. Aledo’s practice organization is a small part of this system and judging by what I’ve seen and their non-district play, the Bearcats are still a team to contend with.