Conditioning boosts stamina, camaraderie
Offseason workouts are essential to keep the Marion High School football team in shape, but they also build teamwork and camaraderie.
“I think they’re getting closer; we had a good camp,” MHS football coach GrantThierolf said. “I think they enjoy being around one another.”
Thierolf encouraged his players to joke with him Thursday.
The coach was advising senior running back Mikael Antoszyk to not sign any free agent contracts with NFL teams when senior guard and defensive tackle Jon Tacha chimed in.
“I signed before the lockout ended,” Tacha said. “Everybody wants me.”
Assuming Tacha had inked a contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Thierolf asked who the all-time leading tackler was in the CFL.
Wide receiver and defensive back Jacob Harper responded, “Me.”
A small group of six players stayed after the main conditioning exercises to work on no contact, offensive drills. Sophomore Taylor Heidebrecht was playing quarterback and he did not make a move to avoid a would-be tackler. Thierolf asked the young quarterback to give some type of shake or shimmy to elude the defender.
“No wonder you’re such a wallflower at dances,” he said. “I know you dance to Bieber at home. I know you’re a Bieber guy.”
Hiedebrecht laughed. He then faked a move to his right on the next option play.
“You want to have good relationships with them,” Thierolf said. “We’re going to laugh at something every day in practice. They do prepare hard, but they enjoy what they’re doing.”
The workout Thursday was just one of the many the Warriors will have on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays before the official practice day of Aug. 15. The Warriors were preparing diligently for the start of the season, getting in shape for the grind of 10 football games.
“We want to be the team that always has something left,” Marion High School football coach Grant Thierolf said.
Thierolf said this to motivate his players to finish their 100-yard sprints strong. The Warriors had already lifted weights, starting at 6 a.m., and ran several 20-yard burst sprints on the track.
On the practice field under the 7 a.m. sunlight, they had completed 10 of the 12 sprints. Thierolf broke the sprints into four, three-sprint quarters. As he would in the game, he wanted his team to finish the fourth quarter with energy.
He also gave an example of a former Marion star player as a bit of motivation. Many of the current Warriors had played with former power running back Sheldon Boone in 2009.
“I can play middle linebacker and running back all game, but, in the fourth quarter, I want the ball,” Thierolf said of Boone, a sophomore football player at Tabor College.
The players responded by finishing their sprints with zeal. As they had for the majority of the 12 sprints, Colten Johnson, Cole Lewman, and Brody Carroll finished the conditioning sprints first, second, and third.
Thierolf said that Johnson and Lewman have shown the leadership this offseason that he expects from his probable starting senior running back and quarterback.
“I want them to finish every sprint first,” Thierolf said.
As a sophomore, Carroll started at free safety. Thierolf said he knew the Carroll was a talented athlete, the junior has gone to the state wrestling tournament the last two years, but Thierolf is planning to give Carroll more opportunities on offense as a running back and receiver.
Carroll is a player who has raised his stock by performing well in offseason workouts.
The conditioning exercises are voluntary, as long as players do not care about how much playing time they will receive during the season.
“Summer jobs don’t condition kids like they used to. Very few have jobs that keep them out all day long,” Thierolf said. “(With our workouts) we know they’re going to be in shape.”
Being an important part of crafting the Warrior football team, the offseason process begins before school ends. The coaching staff meets with several players one-on-one to tell them what they want those players to achieve in the offseason.
Thierolf said the majority of Warrior players put in the work in the offseason that he asks of them.
Thierolf said the coaching staff has been working directly with players since the second week of June. Because of KSHSAA guidelines, coaches have until July 16 to work with the entire team on football specific drills. KSHSAA dictates when teams are allowed to practice without pads and with pads before the start of the season.
“You just have to take advantage of that time in the early part of the summer,” Thierolf said.
He cautioned players Thursday to hydrate as much as possible in the heat. Players prone to cramping, he advised to salt their food and eat pretzels. For players losing weight, he told them to eat peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches between meals.
Although he wants his players to work hard, Thierolf also understands that well-conditioned athletes need time to recover. He wants all his football players to rest and recover for a two-week period in the summer, especially the athletes who play three sports, which includes many football players.
“Say the only thing you do is run,” Thierolf said, “your body will wear down.”