Two-a-day practices are a thing of the past
TWO practices in a single summer day are such a rite of passage, such a football tradition, such an annual August ritual they've become a part of football lore. They're celebrated in movies, "Remember the Titans" and "The Junction Boys." When MTV was looking for a title for its "reality" prep-football soap opera it took the name "Two-A-Days."
Two-a-days. They are terrible, and often all the more celebrated for being so.
But now NCAA-mandated rules make them only an occasional occurrence rather than the traditional everyday march of death. This, of course, is heresy.
Or is it?
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ASK THE MOST macho, biggest, loudest, craziest, most FOOTBALL COACHEST football coach you can find, Hawaii offensive line coach Dennis McKnight. He says that only "some old dinosaurs" would rather go back to the old way. No, he prefers this, one great, all-out practice, quality over quantity, concentration over dehydration. Precision. Perfection. No holding back. He started doing this in his last years as a player, and loved it.
"I think it's good to come out, work hard, concentrate, focus -- it makes guys, as they get tired, be able to pay attention to detail, and I think it's good that it keeps you into it," McKnight said. "I think sometimes when you have two practices, you get into an afternoon practice, guys can sometimes try to pace themselves, try to get through it."
Exactly. Just getting through it. Guys weren't thinking about improving. They were thinking about trying not to fall over and die.
"To me," McKnight said, "that's old school. I mean, I know you've got to be mentally tough, you've got to be all those things. But I think you've also got to be smart about it. The way we practice. Full speed today, and tempo! With no pads on and guys blitzing full speed, stunting, running, getting to the hit point. You know, we practice different from other people."
He gestured to the practice field, after yesterday's UH practice. So many players still there, instead of leaving as soon as possible, looking for a place to collapse. Players with their families. Players staying out there to improve their technique. Players encouraging teammates who had to put in extra work.
Players who wanted to be there. Guys who were excited about coming to work.
IT DOES SOUND good, this new way. But how do these camps compare to stories of two-a-days of old?
"Well, I think back to high school, we used to practice four times a day," McKnight said, spitting out the words in disgust. "It was ridiculous! Before I even knew there was a movie 'Junction Boys' you know, I can remember '77 -- guys are bailing, running out. We went to camp with 60-some guys my senior year. I think it was down to 29 when we came home. We went away to camp.
"I know when I went away to college we had a brand-new head coach as a freshman, they hadn't had a winning record in 16 years, and it was just unmerciful. It was a test of will. It was a testament! We actually had shirts made up, 'Survivor '78.' "
These modern players will never have these epic two-a-days stories with their efficient, energetic single-practice camps.
Maybe that isn't such a terrible thing.