No rest for Anne Arundel high school athletes

Bob Hough
Contact Reporterbhough@capgaznews.com

Aug. 12 is a key date for all prospective athletes in the county. That's the day they'll hit the field, court or course in an effort to show the coaches they have what it takes to make the team.

If Aug. 12 is the first time the players work out with their teams, they'll have some work to do to catch up.

With the first day of fall practices still five weeks away, athletes across the county have been spending their summer doing whatever they can to not only get a head start on making the team, but to stay in the best shape possible leading up to that first day of tryouts.

Athletes aren't required to attend any of the workouts, but the ones who do put themselves in a better position when it comes time to try out.

"This is probably the most important part of the season," said Matt Wukitch, a rising junior football player at Northeast. "These are not mandatory, but we all choose to be out here working and grinding."

Most of the county's football teams participate in 7-on-7 leagues, which gives them the opportunity to at least work on their passing plays. The football teams' workouts are combinations of some time on the field along with sessions in the weight room.

"Like I tell the parents, if a kid is working out all offseason and another doesn't do anything until the first day of practice, who's going to be performing better?" Northeast football coach Brian Baublitz said. "That's just obvious."

Baublitz is in a completely different situation than last year when he was hired late in the offseason and didn't have a lot of time to put in his own offseason program. Entering his second year as a head coach, he's taken advantage of the full offseason and has his team staying active before August. In addition to the 7-on-7 leagues, he took his team to a strong man challenge at St. Mary's along with a county tug of war challenge, which his team won.

Baublitz estimates he's had 40 to 50 players participating each day since the workouts began in January.

"If you're not doing things year-round, you can't compete. Especially in the weight room," Baublitz said. "When we got spanked by all the big boys last year, after watching film we would see we were in position to make the play, but we were bouncing off of them. The only way to possibly close that gap is to get stronger. The kids have absolutely bought into it."

Several schools have combined workouts, where all athletes are encouraged to attend and work out together. At Southern, several of the school's coaches oversee workouts three days a week that are open to all fall athletes, boys and girls. Players rotate through a strength station in the weight room, an agility station and a conditioning station. Each station has between 15 and 20 athletes, who rotate every 45 minutes.

"It's been a lot of fun so far and I feel as the football coach, our football guys are getting a lot by being coached by some of our other coaches from other sports," Southern football coach Steve Erxleben said. "I believe the same could be said by our other athletes and coaches as well."

Broadneck holds workouts twice a week for all female student-athletes. The program started shortly after the last day of school and will continue up to the Tuesday before fall tryouts. The players aren't working specifically on their sports, but simply keeping up their level of conditioning. Head softball coach and assistant field hockey coach Deanna Romeo-Hamilton runs the workouts, which attract 30 to 40 athletes each day.

"It's really more about getting in shape for the season," Romeo-Hamilton said. "It gives them a structure. When you work out on your own, you can put it off."

Most of the county's football teams offer workouts throughout the summer. Most include a combination of weight training in the weight room along with agility and conditioning training on the field. If teams are involved in 7-on-7 leagues they are able to run plays, but the bulk of the sessions are more about the players keeping active and showing up for the first day of practice in the best shape possible.

"This is what football is all about," St. Mary's football coach Jason Budroni said. "There's no real replacement for the team workouts."

Outside of the roughly three to four months during each season, a lot of athletes train nearly year-round. Archbishop Spalding football coach Kyle Schmitt said his team takes a few weeks off following the season, then gets started with a weight training program in early December. Following a break for the holidays, the team is doing something football or conditioning-related outside of a few breaks for Spring Break and final exams leading up to the start of the next season.

"If you want to build a culture, it can't be done in three months," Schmitt said. "I think our kids have really bought into the fact that (the workouts) really equates to what happens in the season. The kids see the results, and once they see the results they buy into the process."

One group of athletes who are happy to simply have a place to work out are those from Severna Park. Following the opening of the new school in January, Severna Park athletes are able to train in a brand new weight room near the gym.

"It's nice to finally come back home after having to use facilities off-site the last two summers," Falcons' football coach Will Bell said. "Our workouts have been packed with anywhere from 70 to 100 athletes in the morning. Those numbers didn't happen over night, it's been a couple years in the making — building a culture."

TRAINING METHODS: What training methods are you using for your teams? Outside of the traditional weight training and speed/agility programs, what other tools are your athletes using to get stronger (tires, sledgehammers, etc.)? Send a note to Bob Hough at bhough@capgaznews.com for a follow-up story on some of these methods.

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