Wildcats extend practice with extra wind sprints
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 13, 2005 - After completing the first week of football practice, Brad Turner decided to give the Wildcats the day off on Saturday. But, the SSHS head coach didn't give the players a break on Friday.

Turner and his crew kept the Wildcats about 25 minutes later than normal Friday, until it was simply too dark to do any more work, ending the practice with an extra set of wind sprints to emphasize the continuing mantra of being in condition.

The extra sprints, Turner said, are as much for mental toughness as physical conditioning.

"The old saying is 'fatigue makes cowards of us all,' " Turner explained. "Going through offseason and two-a-days, all the things we do to be stronger and faster, we also do just as much to make them stronger mentally.

"When your body says you can't do it any more, sometimes your mind has to say, 'Oh yes, you can.' The mind is a powerful thing, and we just try to push them a little more. When their body is hurting and they're tired, we just have push through that. Good football teams have that characteristic."

Friday was physically the toughest practice of the week. Not only were the Cats in full pads for the first day, they also went through a one-on-one tackling drill against each other, plus hit the blocking and tackling dummies for the first time.

Then, they finished off the session with not just three "gassers" - wind sprints across the football field and back twice - under an allotted time, but the coaches made the players go a fourth time.

Then, kicker Spenser Daniel and the field goal unit were sent in to attempt an extra point. If it was good, practice was over. If the kick was not good, then everyone had to run another gasser.

Daniel knocked the ball through the uprights with no problem.

"I don't want to put all the pressure on Spenser, but I know he can handle it," Turner said. "You never know that at the end of the game, you'll have that exact scenario."

In the season opener last year against Jacksonville, Daniel's field goal on the final play of regulation tied the game and sent it to overtime.

"'Runing and things like that are just one way that try to build mental toughness," Turner explained. "I think as long as we preach to them that they're tough, and they believe that, that when it comes to games, they'll do good. You never know in a game what's going to happen. You're going to have bumps and brusies, aches and pains, and distractions, and it may be cold, wet or hot. There are so many things that can take your concentration away.

"So many times, you see people overcoming adversity and do extraordinary things, and the reason they're successful is because they have a tremendous will to win and to succeed. I think that's an important thing."

Obviously, it's important for an athlete. Training the mind isn't as basic as training the body, but in some aspects, they go hand-in-hand. Being in shape allows an athlete to concentrate on what is happening in a game and not be distracted by fatigue and pain.

"I think one of the aspects that's not seen by the common fan is mental toughness. The ability to concentrate when things around them are falling apart is what sets teams apart," Turner said.

"Successful football teams have that trait. We're trying to build that. I think we've done a pretty good job with that, and this group seems to be grasping it pretty good."

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