Jefferson High Summer Practice
Do you remember when you were in elementary school and on the first day back your teachers would ask you about your summer vacation? In second grade you may have written in your writing journal about something exciting you did over the break. You probably wrote about things like visiting your grandparents or going to an amusement park. Fast forward to high school. When you ask Jefferson seniors like Brancen Varnell, Varsity Quarterback, what he did over the summer, he will respond with, “I worked with my coaches on how to get off the ball quicker.” Junior, Shaddow Aiken, would explain that she spent more time working on her flexibility and dance technique. On any given day throughout the summer at Jefferson High School, you can find multiple students on campus in the gyms, band halls, weight rooms, and practice fields working on drills and technique with coaches.
Why? What’s in it for these students and coaches? Jefferson High School Assistant Football Coach, Terry Johnson tells us that he works with students throughout the summer not just to get them in shape for the upcoming season, but also to help them become more responsible and build strong work ethics. Beje Foster, JHS majorette sponsor, explains that the summer is used to help develop cohesiveness in her line. Many coaches like Terry Moore, cheer leading sponsor, and myself, as the drill team director use that time to create a bond in the new team each year and work to set out the expectations for the year with any new members.
The students can all see the benefits of early morning practices as well. “Even though I don’t love waking up early, morning practices do help to make me a better player. It’s also a time to get to work with my teammates and learn how each other works,” states Aerial Reeves, junior volleyball player and cheerleader. “We always have some new members on the team that we have to help teach cheers and chants or in volleyball we use that time to show the new members how to work with other team members and build technique.” Volleyball coach, Sheridda Johnson, says that it’s a time to help freshman understand what it’s like to be a part of a high school team and what those workouts will look like for the year. “We have to help them build their stamina and work on their fundamentals. Everything else will fall into place from there.”
Even though not all of the Jefferson High School football practices throughout the summer were required, the coaches saw an increase in participation this year. “This is the most participation I’ve seen in years. We strongly encouraged it and these kids were just motivated. They wanted to be here to work on their skills and strength, and these are the kids that were in better shape when their actual two-a-days started. Our kids are stronger and more flexible because of the time they put in,” stated Coach Johnson. He goes on to explain that the coaches use this time to help their players develop short and long term goals. Each member of the football team has personal goals for the season and team goals that they are all working towards. The coaches also use this time to view their kids strengths and weakness to determine what positions they need to play, which leads to the development of strategies and plays.
While teams like volleyball and football continue to practice here at home, some teams like majorettes, cheer, and drill team also travel to camps throughout the summer. Mrs. Foster explains the benefits of attending camps. “With having a larger squad this year, we have girls that are at different stages of development. Camps allow us to break into groups and target our specific levels, everything from baton tricks to fundamentals. Even though girls perform at different levels, we are able to have a cohesive squad by being multidimensional with our routines.” Mrs. Moore states that cheer camp is a time where the girls learn everything they will need to know for the upcoming year. “They also get to focus more on stunts at this time and they become more confident with these skills.” As the drill team director, I believe the girls learn a lot from other teams that are at camp. It helps them to set up their game when they see what other teams are working on. Each of the girls start to push themselves just a little more at camp and this time helps set the tone for the upcoming year. Shaddow, lieutenant captain for her drill team, says that her team sets certain goals to work through while at camp, and then they reevaluate those goals during two-a-days in August to set new ones for the upcoming year. “I think all of the time that we spend at camp and in summer practices is going to help us to be more effective and more appealing in the eyes of the crowd when we perform,” states Aiken.
When I asked each of the students how much they practiced, they all gave a different answer. Some teams work five days a week during the summer while others may practice three or four days a week. Some will be at school for three hours a day or some for two hours a day. However, you have some students like Aerial who practice with two different teams, or freshman Taishera Edney, who is a member of the drill team, the band, and the JV volleyball team. It’s during these times that the students have to learn to fit it all in and work on how to be responsible. As one of Taishera’s coaches, I have seen how she struggled at first to juggle it all, but the summer gave her a chance to work on getting organized and how to plan out her days successfully before school started and she had to add classwork and homework to the mix.
Jefferson High School Principal, Michael Walker, talks about the difference he can see in his students this year after they’ve been through the busy summer workouts. “I see a growth in each of these students and how they channel their competitiveness. Their maturity level has improved tremendously. You can see how bad they want to succeed in how they are carrying themselves around the campus.” The coaches have helped students this summer in many ways. Varnell expresses that he hasn’t just been working on technical skills. “I want to be a better leader on this team and lead by example,” he replies. Coach Johnson reflected on the volleyball games they have already played this season. “The practices are already helping. We are battling harder and fighting stronger. That’s a vast improvement from last year.”
Senior Defensive End and Receiver, Datavian Irving, is full of energy. Just the mention of football practice fires him up. “I don’t mind getting up in the mornings for practice. It’s helped me to be a better player in my position. I am able to do a whole lot more than I used to and it’s all becoming more natural.” He goes on to talk about the passion in his teammates and coaches. “These practices are going to benefit our team a lot. We are all showing a determination to come in every morning and be where we are supposed to be all summer even though we don’t have to. It’s about sacrificing for something you want instead of just sitting around the house. Don’t get me wrong, ‘it ain’t easy’! If it was every kid in the school would be there and be a part of these teams.”