This Week in TXHSFB (Mar. 15): To spring ball or not to spring ball? We asked coaches
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It’s spring break for the vast majority of school districts across the state, so instead of taking the week off here at DCTF, we decided to stick with the spring theme and talk a little spring football with coaches from across the state.
The UIL allows the option of spring football for a maximum of 18 days for 6A and 5A schools statewide. It typically equates to 17 days of practice culminating for most in a spring game at the end of the “season.” Schools that elect the option of spring football, however, can not start fall practice until Aug. 14, while schools that decline the spring option can start up on Aug. 7.
In recent years, many larger schools have trended away from spring football, so we wanted to take the pulse of coaches to find out why or why don’t they choose to participate in spring football. Their responses are below!
“I will take 18 practice days over six days any day of the week. Plus participating in spring football gives us a coaching staff a chance to re-evaluate our personnel over the summer vacation.” – El Paso Americas HC Patrick Melton
“At Denison we are a small 5A school, so we are sharing a lot of kids with baseball and track. A lot of our kids also have to hold jobs in the spring to help their families out, my first year here we did spring ball and we had two kids quit because they couldn’t come to practice because they had to help their family. I also feel like the math works out better for us in the fall, we have a chance to have nine padded practices under our belts before schools that participate in spring ball even put the pads on. The day we are in our first scrimmage schools who had spring ball are just putting pads on. Plus we really like the second scrimmage because we have more time to make adjustments after we see what happens in that first scrimmage.” – Denison HC Chad Rogers
“We feel like the benefits growth from scrimmage one to scrimmage two is huge, plus retention rates seem to be higher when we start earlier in the fall.” – Clear Book HC Larry McRae
“I like having spring ball for several reasons but mostly in large part to evaluate our talent. During fall camp we are focused on winning games and there is not as much time to evaluate personnel because you are game planning. So if we can have the evaluative process finished we can solely focus on our scheming for our opponents. We also like to generate excitement towards the end of the school year, it creates a buzz on campus.” – Fort Worth South Hills HC JJ Resendez.
“I am a believer in spring football in 6A and most 5A’s you have legit off-season phases, spring ball keeps the kids motivated instead of just lifting and running. It gives your staff a chance to continue to grow as a unit, especially if there has been turnover or staff changes. Winter is spent learning from colleagues at clinics etc. and spring is a chance to try any new adjustments to scheme or techniques or tinker with your practice schedule. Also you keep from banging on each other too early in the fall, you can go all out physically have the summer to nurse any bumps and bruises.” – El Paso Pebble Hills HC Mark Torres
“At SGP yes we participate in spring football, its math for us. We have the opportunity for 18 teaching days versus just six in the fall.” – South Grand Prairie HC Brent Whitson
“At Crosby we choose not to have spring practice, we have a lot of dual sport athletes in track and football so we want those kids to focus on competing and having success in those sports. We get plenty of football during the athletic period and with 7on7 in the summer. Our kids run our true offense and defense during 7on7. We also like the extra scrimmage in the fall because we are in a nine team district which means we only have two non-district games, so the extra scrimmage and the extra week benefits us more because games that count are really two weeks earlier than for most.” – Crosby HC Jeff Riordan
“The extra days in April and May traded for an extra week in August is a no-brainer for us. Also, in spring football there isn’t the factor of preparing for an opponent. You can really concentrate on evaluating talent and getting the kids in the right place. We as a staff are probably more willing to try different things in the spring than in August.” – Haslet Eaton HC Brad Turner
“We go out during the period in T Shirt and shorts and have a 12 period practice complete with individual drills, group drills, 1on1’s and 7 on 7. We end with team minus the defensive line and we’ve never got anyone hurt doing it this way. We are able to install our whole offense and defense and get a lot of work done just during the athletic period. We start this every year on April 15th – (which is the 1st day college coaches can come) and we do it until the last day of school. The kids then come in and lift after school on their own during this time. The kids have leadership groups to run the after school lifting and this helps grow leaders. We dont want to get a kid hurt with no game in sight doing tackle football in the spring and I want to have all my kids and coaches at practice, some cant do spring ball because they are coaching or playing another sport. I want our kids to be able to solely focus on their second sport after school. I like the extra week of 2-a-days – I feel, like this gets me ready for a real opponent more than spring ball, especially conditioning wise. I also like the extra scrimmage, I believe this prepares me better for a real opponent more than spring ball does. We’ve done it this way for many, many year and this works for us.” – Manvel HC Kirk Martin
“We are not having spring ball, we have multiple key players who are also in baseball and track. Our new school calendar also means if we had spring ball our first day of practice would be on the first day of school. Our first three opponents are 4A schools so we’d be a week behind them as well. Plus when we had spring ball we rarely used the full 18 days because of testing, etc and we feel like we can plenty done during the athletic period without pads.” – Canyon HC Blake Bryant
“We choose to have spring practice because schools are allowed 18 practices in spring but could only have a max of 7 with an extra week in the fall. If given the choice to practice 18 times vs. 7, I feel having spring practice is a better chance to improve our football team.” – Mansfield Lake Ridge HC Kirk Thor
“We didn’t do spring last year and I didn’t like the way our younger kids came out in the fall. I felt they were too soft and it took them a while to play Panther football. Our more experienced kids it didn’t effect. I love the way in the spring you can just work on becoming the best football player and team you can be without preparing for another opponent. We also find out which younger kids are ready to take the next step!” – Fort Bend Ridge Point HC Brett Sniffin
“We participate in Spring Ball because it is an opportunity to evaluate our team before the fall and have some sense of where we are as a team before August. It is also a great end to the school year and really sets the tone for our summer strength and conditioning program.” – San Antonio East Central HC Joe Hubbard
“It is a personal preference of the Head Coach. It is not the “be all, end all” to winning. There are programs that win big that have it. There are programs that win big that do not. There are a lot of things you can say that are good about spring ball, and there are things you can say that are good about starting a week earlier in August. Here’s some of our reasoning at Ryan where we do not have spring ball, and where we are 27-2 the last two years. Distractions are everywhere in the spring, we have state mandated testing. We have football/track athletes advancing late into the school year conflicting with spring ball. I don’t think it’s fair to our track athletes and coaches to have kids going through full contact practices when they have a big track meet later that week. We have baseball/football guys playing late in the year conflicting with spring ball (especially QB conflicts). At Ryan we have a lot of kids that need to work to help out at home. So spring ball puts those kids in a bind. Drivers Ed always comes up every spring where kids need to miss practices. There are many more things that always seem to come up in the spring for us. In short, there are a lot of things we are having to work around, as opposed to having everyone focused. We like the extra week in August. Unlike the spring where it seems everyone is all over the place, for us everyone is locked in. There are no teacher meetings, no school, none of the distractions I mentioned that you get in the spring. Really, there is nothing else going on but focused work on football, which I love. I like the extra scrimmage against an opponent. I think you learn more in that scrimmage than you do in the extra practices during spring ball. I like the extra week for heat acclimation. I like the fact that you are practicing and you are only a couple of weeks away from your first game. At Ryan, we start working on football skills and fundamentals in February multiple days per week. So by the time the school year ends, we have had a ton of practices in no pads during our athletic period. We get a lot done during that time. We do a lot of fundamental, technique, and scheme work year round. So we just feel spring isn’t a necessity to get our stuff taught.” – Denton Ryan HC Dave Henigan
As you can see from the answers above, there are guys who have won a lot of games doing spring ball and there are guys who have won a lot of games not doing spring ball. The best answer here is there really is no right answer!! The option to do or not do spring ball varies by program – and in some cases – by what happens in realignment, but there’s no doubt the 6A and 5A coaches like having the option versus not having the option to participate.
It’s officially clinic season in the state of Texas and if you have coaching clinic information that we are missing below by all means send it our way! You can e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me on twitter @Matt_Stepp817
June 13-15: Angelo Football Clinic, San Angelo http://www.angelofootballclinic.com/index.html
July 23-26: 2017 THSCA Coaches Convention & Coaching School, Houston
Matt Stepp is the Texas High School Football Inside for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Find him on Twitter: @Matt_Stepp817.