Just a Thought
I spent a little time this week watching Chattooga and Trion football teams doing spring practice. Maybe I remember it differently because my head was inside a helmet but it doesn’t seem as rough as I remember it. I remember running until I puked then running some more. Also, as I recall we looked like a bunch of zombies by the end of practice and almost had to be carried off the field to the dressing room. Now I see guys walking off looking like they aren’t even winded.
Of course we probably had guys like that who walked off the field without breathing hard, but my head was down and I was blinded by sweat so it’s possible I missed them back then. Whether it’s real or imagined it did seem much tougher 30 years ago than it does today. I remember my cousins who were older than me saying the same thing about us. When they said it I believed them so maybe I’m right too.
I remember my older cousins talking about a machine they used back in their day where you tightened a spring and then released it into a player to teach them how to hit. From the sound of it the thing had to be incredibly dangerous. Apparently the spring could be tightened way too far and then it would hit the player with massive force. I never saw it, thank goodness, but it did not sound pleasant. One of my cousins even told me he saw it crack a helmet one time.
I was always a lineman on offense so my hated contraption was the sled. It seemed like we pushed Billy Martin about ten miles on that dang sled each and every practice. He was not a little guy back then and we would fire off the line, hit the dummies on the sled with him riding on top of it and drive as hard as we could to push it around. When we did it right he would get all excited and scream and yell pleasant things at us. When we would do it wrong, he would get all excited and scream and yell very unpleasant things at us. Sometimes it was hard to tell which one he was yelling, it was just screaming sometimes.
Another thing we did, this one I actually really loved, I haven’t witnessed teams doing anymore. It was called harnesses. What we would do was two players would strap into harnesses that looked similar to what a sky diver straps on. Each player would then get down in a stance and when the whistle blew we would fire off in opposite directions trying to pull each other like two trucks tied together in a tug of war. I liked this exercise because I was good at it. Take large powerful legs and combine them with a low center of gravity and I was a force to be reckoned with in the harnesses.
Another crazy thing we would do was called bull in the ring. Now this one is probably prohibited by the GHSA now because of the shear violence and for good reason. One guy would stand in the center of a circle made of other players. Everyone was running in place while the man in the middle turned a slow circle and pointed at other players. Every time he pointed to a player that player would take off towards the man in the middle for a wide open collision. The larger the circle the more explosive the collision was. I loved this exercise except for one player. Reginald Groce would hit me so hard it felt like he was hitting me out of my shoes. I really hated to pick him if I were in the middle and the same if he picked me. It was brutal. I have no idea how we survived without concussions all the time.
Time has made the game safer and that is a good thing for the safety of the kids no doubt. But in the moment those brutal parts of practices of old were a lot of fun even if they did about kill us in the process.
It’s just a thought but one worth thinking.